6 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, the Leading Cause of Death

There are many myths regarding heart disease. Some think it’s just a man’s disease that doesn’t really affect women. Others think that it can be cured with surgery or medication.

The facts reveal the reality of heart disease and its deadly impact. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the U.S. For women in the U.S., it’s the leading cause of death. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), heart disease is a chronic condition that causes death or disability in many women. Once the damage is done, you’re more susceptible to future heart problems—regardless of surgery or medication.

The good news is that decisions you make every day greatly impact your risk of developing heart disease. Keep reading to find out how to prevent and control heart disease in your life.

Woman Heart Disease

Heart Disease Defined

According to the NIH, heart disease (also called coronary heart disease) is a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart. When an artery becomes blocked, it prevents oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart, causing a heart attack. Beyond heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases include high blood pressure, stroke and angina (chest pain).

Heart disease may or may not cause visible symptoms in its victims. If you have heart disease, you may experience pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, throat, upper back or abdomen. Or you may not experience any symptoms until you have a heart attack.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Certain risk factors, including health conditions and lifestyle choices, increase your risk of developing heart disease. Over time, the following risk factors may lead to serious artery damage: 

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Having diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Excessive alcohol use

How to Fight Heart Disease

Making healthier lifestyle choices and properly managing any other medical conditions are vital to lowering your risk of developing heart disease. Follow these simple steps to optimize your heart health:

  1. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Choose a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean meats. Limit your intake of saturated fat, added sugars, cholesterol and salt.
  2. Get sufficient, regular exercise. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of activity each week.
  3. Quit or avoid smoking. According to Mayo Clinic, “smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.”
  4. Limit alcohol use. The CDC recommends no more than one drink per day for women.
  5. Know your family history. Having close family members with heart disease may increase your chances of developing this condition.
  6. Manage your medical conditions. For example, Mayo Clinic reveals that women with diabetes have a greater risk of developing heart disease than men with diabetes. Keeping diabetes under control can help safeguard your heart health.

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To learn more about heart health screening services, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.