When it comes to the risk of heart attack and heart disease, many of us assume the same – that it’s a men’s health issue. In reality, cardiovascular disease kills as many women as it does men.
The truth is staggering: today there are more than 900,000 women in the UK living with Coronary Heart Disease, and in the years following menopause the risk of heart disease rises significantly. Coronary Heart Disease kills three times more women than breast cancer. Yet many women don’t realise it could happen to them.
Women who don’t recognise the symptoms of heart attack are more likely to delay calling 999 – a factor that can dramatically reduce the chance of survival.
The good news is that in many cases heart disease can be prevented; by educating women about CHD we can increase the chance of survival and help keep the heart healthy and at its best.
The Women’s Room
To help increase awareness and education, the British Heart Foundation has an initiative called The Women’s Room – an online resource dedicated to helping women understand the risks of heart disease and find the support they need at any stage, whether trying to understand the risks or come to grips with what it means to be living with heart disease.
The web is a great place to find more information about heart disease if you want to educate yourself; the British Heart Foundation’s comprehensive Women and Heart Disease education pack is a great introduction. If you’re interested in understanding how healthy your heart is, the NHS offers an excellent tool to check your heart age.
Taking care of your heart
Happily, many of risk factors for heart disease are preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle. You can do your bit to take care of your heart with a few simple lifestyle choices:
- Quit smoking – There are dozens of reasons to quit smoking if you haven’t already, and your heart is one of them: you’re twice as likely to have a heart attack if you smoke than if you don’t.
- Exercise – Exercise is an essential component of any healthy lifestyle, but in England only about 1 in 4 women do enough physical activity to protect her heart. Make sure you’re doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.
- Reduce belly fat – carrying excess weight puts strain on your heart and make you more likely to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease. Look in particular at excess weight around your abdomen; aim for a waistline of less than 80cm or 31.5 inches.
- Drink less – Too much drinking and binge-drinking can damage the heart muscle. Watch your alcohol intake and make sure you stay within the recommended limits; for women, heart healthy drinking is one or two units of alcohol a day.
- Balance your diet – A balanced diet is key to keeping us healthy and happy as we age. To be heart-smart, reduce your intake of salt and saturated fats.
- Manage stress – Some studies suggest stress is a contributing factor to heart disease. Learning how to relax and manage stress can help lead to a healthier heart and a happier life.
Are you heart healthy?
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