A Woman's future health: the heart of it

More women die of heart disease than any other cause. It's time to lower your risk.

It's a sobering statistic that heart disease is the No. 1 threat to women. In fact it kills three times more people than the three main female cancers (breast, ovarian and cervical) put together.

Your heart is something that you can help - or hinder - every day of your life, so follow these ten tips below to keep things ticking over nicely:

Women walking1. Know the signs of trouble

As you know, chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack. But heart attacks in women can also be accompanied by symptoms that can be confused with other ailments. Shortness of breath, nausea or actual vomiting, back or jaw pain, and unexplained fatigue can also be danger signs. If you're in any doubt, don’t hesitate to seek help from your GP, just to be on the safe side.

2. Pack it in

If you're a smoker, one of the most obvious ways to improve your heart health is to simply stop smoking. It will help your health in so many ways, and lowering your risk of heart disease is right up there.

3. Get yourself checked

The British Heart Foundation says that anyone over the age of 40 should be having regular cardiovascular check-ups with their doctor. This examines risk factors including cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. Family history is another good reason for a check, especially if your mum had a heart attack before the age of 60, or if your dad had one before the age of 45.

4. Confront your front

The more fat you store around your middle (as opposed to your hips, thighs or bottom), the higher your risk of heart disease. But on the plus side, this more dangerous fat is also the easiest to shift.

5. Cut out trans fats

Unlike 'good' fats found in foods such as olive oil, flaxseed oil and walnuts, trans fats are chemically altered vegetable oils and should be avoided. They are very common, turning up in everything from ready meals and biscuits to crisps and sweets.

Woman exercising6. Get moving

It's unfair, but even if women and men have similar cholesterol readings, women may still be at a higher risk of heart disease. To compensate, women need to make their life more aerobic. Aerobic exercise helps boost your "good" cholesterol and lowers the blood fats (known as 'triglycerides'). Exercise also helps reduce blood pressure, keeps your weight down and makes you feel good.

7. Reduce your salt intake

Salt can raise your blood pressure and you shouldn't consume more than six grams a day. That's about a teaspoon's worth. So start taking an interest in the labels of foods you buy and, at home, go very easy on what you use. (A good start is not to salt something you haven't tasted.) Your blood pressure should be 120/80mmHg or below, and bear in mind that over the age of 55, there are more women with high blood pressure than men.

8. Eat fish twice a week

Try to put fish on the menu at least twice a week. It can lower your blood fats and help boost your levels of HDL, or 'good' cholesterol. In particular, go for mackerel, salmon or sardines which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. These are protective fats that are good for your heart.

Women walking9. Cut down on alcohol

There is some evidence that an occasional glass of red wine can be beneficial, but on the whole alcohol and good health don't tend to mix. As well as risking other problems, women who drink more than a glass of wine a day may find their blood fats (triglycerides) starting to rise.

10. Reduce your risk of diabetes

A woman with diabetes has an increased risk - by a factor up to 7 - of heart disease or heart attack. So how do you know if you're at risk of diabetes? One indicator is to measure your girth (i.e. the circumference of your abdomen, running a tape measure across your belly button). If it's above 35 inches, your risk of diabetes, and therefore heart disease, is greater.

Are you concerned about how heart healthy you are? Then you may want to consider a health assessment at BMI Healthcare.

A health assessment will assess all aspects of your health, including your heart. Your results will help you see where you are health wise, and if necessary, what steps you can take to improve it.

To book your assessment, call us on 0800 101 0337 or make an online enquiry.

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