Here’s the heart of the issue:
Compared to men, women’s hearts are smaller, beat faster, and pump about 10% less blood volume per beat. Women also have unique risk factors for heart disease that men don’t (including polycystic ovary syndrome, and gestational diabetes, to name a few). As it is for men, however, heart disease remains women’s leading cause of death.
So, what can we do about that, ladies? Tons, actually.
7 Simple Strategies to Health-ify Your Heart
1) Cut out sugar.
Refined sugar and carbohydrates (found in processed foods including pasta, crackers, and candy) have been linked with everything from Alzheimer’s disease to obesity to, yes, heart disease. Why? Because sugar is pro-inflammatory, meaning that it can damage and speed up the aging of your cells and bodily tissues.
2) Learn how to meditate.
Meditation has been shown to help control blood pressure (if high, it can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke) and decrease subjective feelings of anxiety, depression, and other heart-stressing emotions.
Other ways to improve your stress management skills? Free-write, practice yoga, do breathing exercises, and commit to better sleep hygiene (go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, sleep in a pitch dark room, and use your bedroom only for rest and romance).
3) Move every day.
Mix it up! Move long and slow, short and fast, lift a little, lift a lot, stretch, swim, cycle….A minimum of 30 minutes per day of something (even climbing the stairs in lieu of the elevator!) can really add up over time.
4) Drink half your body weight in fluid ounces per day.
Drinking more water helps you lose weight by keeping your metabolism steady and helping you avoid “grazing” and other less-than-ideal eating habits. Plus, staying well hydrated improves the viscosity (thickness) of your blood and prevents your heart from over-exerting itself as it circulates your blood.
5) Eat as many green veggies as possible.
Green leafy vegetables are rich in heart-healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Plus, they’ll fill you up without filling you out, helping you maintain a lean body weight, lose excess body fat, and have enough energy to support exercise and recovery.
6) Focus on fat.
Healthy sources of dietary fat (including saturated and unsaturated, like coconut oil, olive oil, fish, eggs, avocados, and macadamia nuts) can improve blood lipid profiles and reduce your risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.
7) Schedule your next doctor’s appointment.
It’s super important to have regular check-ups with your physician (especially if you have a family history of heart disease) so you can have a true picture of your overall heart health. Tests and measures to ask for: total cholesterol (including “terrible” triglyceride, “lousy” LDL, and “healthy” HDL levels), C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), and blood pressure.
Let us know about your own heart-healthy tips, and be sure to share this action plan with the other women in your life!