Are you wearing red today? February 1, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight heart disease. Heart disease remains the number one killer of American women, causing one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. Symptoms of heart disease differ in women than men, so we chatted with Dr. Malissa J. Wood, MD FACC, Co-Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center Corrigan Women's Health Program and a a Go Red for Women spokesperson. Here are her tips for keeping your ticker in top condition.
Quit smoking. "Even a small amount of nicotine can be detrimental to your cardio health."
Exercise, exercise, exercise. "High blood pressure, being overweight, being sedentary, being stressed are all detrimental to you cardio health. Regular exercise is better than something you can take in a bottle because it helps with all of those risk areas. Count your steps. It may be daunting to join a gym, but walking is free and something you can track. That’s a start if you’re sedentary. Aim for 5-7 hours of aerobic exercise per week and do weights twice a week."
Reassess your nutrition. "Abs are not made in the gym, they are made in the kitchen. As we age and estrogen levels drop, we will get more weight around our middle, which is associated with a higher diabetes risk. Eating better helps prepare us for when our body starts to metabolize and store fat differently. Even fit women need to think about what you eat. As you age, your body will react differently to the things you're able to eat in your 20s."
Get social. "Social connections greatly impact your success in making behavioral changes. Get a partner or friend to join you. Your chances of success will boost when you have someone doing the same thing."
Know when to see a doctor. Women should be aware they are or could be at risk for heart disease. If you have a symptom like chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath that you haven’t felt it before, get it checked out by a doctor. When something feels wrong, get it checked out sooner or later.
Lead by example. "As women, we’re moms, aunts or grandmothers. We need to remember that our responsibility is profound. We give kids the background to how they're going to live their life. It’s never too early to start showing them how to live healthy. Get your kids moving, remind them to take care of their health. Give yourself the gift of health so you can take care of yourself and family."