Put your heart in it: 5 ways women can be proactive about heart health

Healthy lifestyle concept with diet and fitness on blue boards

Most women believe they are more likely to die of breast cancer than heart disease. The truth is heart disease kills twice as many women each year as breast cancer. Heart disease is not just a “man’s disease”. Only one in two American women believe heart disease to be their greatest risk. In reality, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Heart disease is then followed by lung cancer and breast cancer, respectively.

As February is American Heart Month there is no better time than the present to take proactive steps for better heart health. And with these few tips below, you’ll even have fun along the way. Even better, many of the best things you can do for your heart, can also reduce your risk of breast cancer. So check out these tips on how to be as proactive as possible with your health.

  1. Put the smoke out.

If you smoke, stop smoking. Any smoking increases your risk for heart disease and cancer, whether it’s a cigarette, vaping, or marijuana, it’s all smoking to your heart. Your risk of heart attack drops by half within 72 hours of when you stopped smoking. And the risk continues to drop from there. Just being around smoke increases your heart risk, so ask your partner or family members to light up outside.

  1. Stop Sitting.

We all know exercise is good for your health, but it’s also vital to watch how much time you spend sitting. More than one hour a day of daily TV time while sitting doubles your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Try breaking up the eight-hour work day at your desk with mini breaks. For example, walk to the water cooler every hour, head to a coworker’s office instead of reaching for the phone and opt for some fresh air on your lunch hour. Walk the dog, walk with your family, but walk! Adding 15 minutes of walking to your schedule every day for a year can help lose 6 pounds, too.

  1. Get Active.

Many women don’t believe they can fit exercise into their busy days. Try to set a goal to make it your family lifestyle. Just 20 minutes a day starts to decrease your risk of heart disease. Exercise doesn’t have to mean running. It means 20 dedicated minutes of moving, at a pace intense enough to speak 3 words every breath. Do it with your family to decrease their risk of heart disease and diabetes, too.

  1. Get smart about sweets.

Have a sweet tooth? Satisfy your cravings with dark chocolate, which contains heart-healthy flavonoids that help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease. The Mayo Clinic  recommends eating dark chocolate in moderation to help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function.

  1. Follow a heart healthy diet.

What is a heart healthy diet? There are many proven diets to lower heart disease risk. South Beach, The Ornish Diet, and Weight Watchers all have proven benefits to fight heart disease. The common key?

  • No fast food (or only once a week)
  • Drink Water. Not soda, not juice, not milk, not bottled tea. Just water.
  • Half of every plate should be a vegetable – potatoes and corn don’t count.
  • Eat lean protein that has not been fried.
  1. Don’t skimp on sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation , people who don’t sleep enough are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

  1. Do what you love.

We all have different ways of relaxing and finding peace. Whether it’s practicing yoga, meditating, reading a book or simply taking some quiet time for yourself, don’t forget to engage in the activities that you love to help keep daily stress at bay.

Wear Red For Women 2017-1.jpg

Our Bright Health team wore red to raise awareness for women’s heart health as a part of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign in February. We also set a goal of raising $0.25 per Bright Health member to fundraise for this great cause. Bright On!

Author: Stephanie Sample

February 14, 2017