14 Ways to Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and there are currently more than 3.5 million women in the UK living with heart disease.
Sadly, 77 women die from a heart attack every day in the UK – and that is around 28,000 women every year. But many women are unaware that they are at risk of heart disease and generally speaking, it’s a bigger health threat than breast cancer.
At menopause because of declining progesterone levels, you lose the protection that progesterone gives to reduce the risk of oestrogen excess, oestrogen dominance.
That lack of hormone balance is associated with increased risk for heart disease and strokes.
Here are some simple ways to reduce your risk.
1. Get walking
Just 40 minutes three or four times a week (or 25 minutes of harder exercise, like jogging) can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight.
Good news: you don’t have to do it all at once as even 10 minutes at a time is great for your heart.
If you’re new to working out, or just getting back into it, start slow and check with your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough for exercise.
2. Be sociable
Connection and friendship can do your heart good — literally. Research has shown that being alone, or perhaps more importantly feeling alone, is as bad for your heart as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, or not exercising.
It’s not how often you see people that matters, but how connected you feel to others. So make some plans with an old friend, or join a club and meet some new ones.
3. Focus on your 5 a day
A variety of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet contain nutrients and fibre that make them heart-healthy. But they also have antioxidants, which may help protect your cells from damage that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
Try to work different colours into your diet, think traffic lights – red, orange, green and more.
4. Nuts can be a healthy snack
The fibre, unsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids in nuts may help your body cut down on inflammation, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and plaque buildup in blood vessels — all linked to heart disease.
They also might protect against blood clots that cause strokes but don’t overdo it — they have lots of calories and should always be plain and unsalted. About 4 small handfuls a week is enough.
5. Eat more fatty fish
Two servings a week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, or tuna may help your heart health.
Part of it may be the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish, but other nutrients may also help and supplements may not have the same benefits.
6. Keep moving
It’s not just a single daily workout that lowers your odds of heart disease, it’s how active you are all day long.
Even if you have an exercise routine, being a couch potato the rest of the day can still be harmful to your health.
Break it up and include gardening, walking an extra way to the next bus stop, and housework are all effective ways to stay up and moving.
7. Yoga benefits
It’s not just exercise, it’s also a way to calm your mind and ease stress and that can lower heart rate and blood pressure and make you less anxious, which is all good for your heart.
If yoga’s not for. you, find other healthy ways to relax and cut stress, like meditation, listening to music, or a hobby you enjoy.
8. Sleep enough
Your body needs long periods of deep rest as during that time, your heart rate and blood pressure drop low for a while, which is key for heart health.
If you always sleep less than 7 hours, your body may start to make chemicals that keep those things from happening.
Not always easy at menopause when nights are disturbed with hot flushes and more visits to the toilet, but less sleep is also linked to inflammation and high blood sugar, which can be bad for your heart.
9. Check for sleep apnoea
Do you snore loudly, wake up gasping for breath, or feel tired all day after a full night’s rest?
You definitely need to see your doctor as those are signs of sleep apnoea, a condition that can make you more likely to have stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Your doctor can help you treat it, which will help you sleep better and protect your heart.
10. Stop smoking
Smoking raises blood pressure, makes it harder to exercise, and makes your blood more likely to clot, which can cause a stroke.
But your chances of having a heart attack go down just 24 hours after your last cigarette, so see your doctor or check the British Lung Foundation website below for helpful resources:
11. More frequent sex
You’re less likely to have heart disease if you have sex a couple of times a week, compared to once a month.
The sex itself may help protect the heart, or it may be that healthier people have more sex.
12. Keep your weight healthy
Extra pounds raise your odds of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all linked to heart disease.
Don’t rely on fad diets or supplements to slim down, though as exercise and the right amount of healthy foods are the best ways to keep a healthy weight.
Talk to your doctor about how to measure your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you need to lose weight.
13. Stop sitting!
Heart disease is more likely if you sit all day, and it’s not only because you burn fewer calories — it’s the actual sitting that seems to do it.
It may change the way your body processes sugar and fat, which are closely linked to heart disease.
Try to break up long periods of sitting at work and at home by standing up and moving around at least once an hour.
14. Get regular checkups
Your doctor can see if your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are in danger of damaging your heart and blood vessels and may want to test you for diabetes as well.
The earlier you find those problems, the quicker you can start to treat them, and your doctor can suggest lifestyle changes and medication to protect your heart.
These are all fairly simple ways you can reduce your risk for heart disease, and given its major impact on women it is worth seeing how many you can adopt.
Don’t forget hormone balance either, as excess oestrogen, oestrogen dominance can be a key factor in an increased risk for heart disease and strokes.