By KATHRYN RIDDLE
Since the American Heart Association launched its Go Red for Women Campaign in 2003, more people now know that
cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women.
According to the American Heart Association, there are two categories of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a term that includes coronary artery disease, hypertension, heart failure and stroke which is a form of arterial disease. Risk factors that cannot be controlled are age, family history, gender, race and past heart disease or stroke. Risk factors that can be controlled are high cholesterol, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, alcohol and drug abuse, atrial fibrillation, smoking, diabetes, obesity, stress and TIA (transient ischemic attack, a warning or mini stroke).
Additional risk factors found in people with heart and other cardiovascular diseases include poor dental health, air and noise pollution, sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, migraine headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic stress and autoimmune diseases. Also, as women age, their risk for heart disease and stroke increases dramatically as they reach menopause no matter how old they are. While it is believed that the decline of estrogen production may be a contributing factor to the increased risk of heart disease, the AHA does not recommend postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy as some studies have indicated that its use may not reduce risk.
To get on track to a healthy lifestyle,
it’s critical to “Know Your Numbers,” as defined by the AHA, for blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Regular exercise, such as walking at least 30 minutes every day, is beneficial to heart and overall health. More intense physical activity, such as swimming, bicycling or aerobics, is even better, especially to lose weight. Weight-training is important, too, for bone strengthening for the prevention of osteoporosis.
A healthy diet should include daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, legumes and fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout and albacore tuna. Add nuts, unsalted and preferably raw, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews, to your diet but in moderation as they have a caloric content. They contain monounsaturated fat, are high in fiber and protein, naturally cholesterol-free and rich in minerals.
The 11th annual Go Red for Women event is Feb. 21 at the Cleveland Convention Center. For more information about it and to learn more about how to take charge of your own heart health, visit www.heart.org to access the American Heart Association