I hear stats about heart health all the time, but don't know what I should be doing to stay on the right track. What should women in their 20s and 30s do to protect their hearts? Thanks!
— Hoping to stay heart-healthy
Heart disease has historically been viewed as a man's disease, and thus, prevention and awareness of heart disease in women was not always at the forefront. However, heart disease prevention in women is extremely important since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women (and men) in the United States. Let's review the precautionary advice.
The American Heart Association (AHA) is so concerned by the hundreds of thousands of women who die each year from cardiovascular disease that it's started the Go Red For Women campaign to encourage awareness of the issue. Its website has fantastic information on medical care and lifestyle choices based on age to try and prevent heart disease. The takeaway? Women in their 20s and 30s should focus on prevention, diet, and exercise.
According to the AHA website, if you can avoid the conditions that put you at risk for heart disease until you turn 50, chances are good that you may never develop it. If this is true, then taking the initiative to take care of yourself is worth the investment of time and effort! The recommendations for women in their 20s and 30s are similar and include checking for a family history of heart disease, not smoking, staying away from secondhand smoke, drinking alcohol in moderation, and choosing birth control carefully (some oral contraceptives can increase blood pressure in certain women. Also, combining cigarette smoking with oral contraceptives can lead to serious cardiovascular disease).
The AHA recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, lean meat, low-fat dairy products, and foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. For women of any age, the AHA recommends a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical exercise each week. The medical exams the AHA recommends for heart disease prevention include weight and body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure (at every office visit or at least every two years), cholesterol panel (at least every five years or even more if your doctor determines you have risk factors), a heart exam, and fasting blood glucose (by the time you are 45 years old).
I highly recommend going to the AHA website to look through its heart health tools and to review the information available. Hopefully this information will inspire you to take a more proactive approach toward taking care of yourself and your heart too!
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