Heart Disease in Women: Know the Preventive Measures
Women’s heart disease is relatively a new problem which has been by large ignored by even the United States until the shocking realization that it became the number one cause of death in women surpassing even cancer. This has triggered off a chain reaction of articles, TV features, health campaigns to help raise awareness so women can recognize and deal with the issue.
Most women when thinking about the health risks don’t necessarily consider cardiac issues as one of priorities and rarely know the risk factors or preventive measures. Most women also completely ignore or downplay symptoms which create an additional problem of not being diagnosed in time and they only seek a doctor’s help when the disease has progressed.
Being a woman myself, I can relate to this. A woman’s body has the gift of giving birth. We are conditioned to be nurturers, to take care of our children and families and more often than not we put our own needs and health on the back burner but leave no stones unturned when it comes to well-being of our loved ones. Sounds familiar? Having said that, the healthier we are and the better we take care of ourselves and our own health, the more we will be able to take care of everyone else around us.
Let us look at the risk factors – apart from genetic predispositions, high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol levels are the highest risk factors. Other risk factors are obesity, high stress levels and regular consumption of alcohol. Early onset of menopause also plays a role.
As it has been said many times before, prevention is the best medicine.
Here are few things that can help you prevent the onset of the cardiac diseases:
1. Quit smoking
Cigarettes are laced with chemicals which can damage your heart and blood vessels, which in turn can create narrowing of the arteries. Smoking also interferes with oxygen delivery thus straining the heart. Women who take birth control pills and smoke are more likely to end up with cardiac problem as they may be more prone to creation of blood clots. Even being in the vicinity of a smoker and exposed to so called “second hand smoking” can increase your risk of having heart problems. Nationwide campaigns which are running in many countries to ban the use of tobacco and its products in public places have created healthier environment and protected us from “second hand” smoking.
2. Regular Exercise
Ideally one should be doing 30 to 60 minutes of medium to intensive exercise most days of the week to minimize the onset of cardio diseases. Having said that even as little as 30 minutes of any activity per day will lower your chances of having cardiac issues. Remember, when it comes to exercising everything that uses your muscles counts. This means walking up and down the stairs in your house doing your chores, or gardening, or any other physical activity will be beneficial. In case you are finding difficult to take out 30 minutes another solution could be to split it into three workouts of ten minutes each.
3. Healthy Eating
Meals you eat should be well balanced, regular and moderate and spilt into small portions. Look for wholesome, organic meats, fruits and vegetables. Limit the intake of red meat and dairy products, while try to completely avoid deep fried as well as processed foods. Limit intake of bakery goods as well as alcohol. Do not shy away from vegetables and fruits. They will keep your heart healthy and will help you fight obesity and maintain the ideal weight.
4. Rest and Relax
Pay attention to your sleep. This is when your body recovers and rejuvenates and inadequate sleep, both in terms of quality and quantity of sleep you get can create many health issues like diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity which all in turn can contribute to onset of cardiac problems. If you are having sleeping problems seek medical help. Relaxation techniques like meditations, various breathing techniques, power naps, even taking time out and going for a relaxing facial or body massage are all great ways to unwind and relax. Your heart will appreciate it!
All of the above mentioned will be of great help in reducing risk factors and creating a healthy balance in your life, but most of all you need to take responsibility for your health and wellbeing. Regular medical screenings are great way to monitor your health even if you have no symptoms and if you do have some symptoms, never ignore but get it checked before it’s too late.
(Blog author Vesna Jacob is a fitness expert in Delhi)
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