Ask The Doc - Heart Disease in Women

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Question: As a woman, what can I do to help reduce my risk of heart disease?

Kathy Redlinger, Registered DietitianBy Kathy Redlinger, Registered Dietitian, Columbia St. Mary’s Women’s Heart Secrets Program

This is a very important question – especially since February is American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, responsible for 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 43 million women in the Unites States are affected by heart disease while 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

While I know the statistics can be scary, there are many ways you can reduce your risk. The best way to start is to live a healthy lifestyle.

While age, gender and family history cannot be controlled, you can prevent and control high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and weight with lifestyle changes, medications and healthful eating.

Here are just a few steps you can take that will put you on your way to a healthier heart.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. One good goal is to fill half your plate with colorful vegetables and fruits every meal.

  • Eat less salt. By preparing foods at home you can control the amount of salt in your meals. As you prepare meals, use as little salt as possible – I generally cut at least half the salt from recipes. Also, as you shop be sure to select “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” items.

  • Eat fatty fish. Salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna (packed in water, if canned), mackerel and sardines are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

  • Avoid saturated and trans fats. Food such as red meats, cheese, fried foods, whole milk and commercially prepared bakery are high in these fats, which raise your bad cholesterol while also lowering your good cholesterol.

  • Eat whole grains. A diet rich in whole grains (while also limiting the intake of sweets and refined grains, such as white bread) has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Whole grains are a great source of essential nutrients, such as protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and minerals (iron, zinc, copper, magnesium).

  • Get exercise. Regular moderate physical activity lowers blood pressure and helps control weight and manage stress. Be physically active in your own way. Start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Always check with your physician before beginning a workout regimen.

    This article appeared in the February 25 issue of The Ozaukee News Graphic.



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