John Pearson, MD
As a woman, your greatest health fear is very likely breast cancer. That is because most women do not realize that it’s heart disease that kills more than half a million American women each year. In fact, heart disease is the number-one health threat to women of all ages, and the most preventable. Did you know that your lifestyle choices are your most powerful weapon against heart disease?
Cardiologists view heart disease as a continuum of gradually increasing risk—sort of like those number lines from grade-school math. And every woman is on that number line somewhere.
But no matter what your age, or where you are on the continuum, you can reduce your heart disease risk by as much as 80%, starting right now. According to the new American Heart Association guidelines, here’s how:
• Know your risk. Begin screening for heart disease risk factors at age 20. The AHA advises having blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and waist size checked at least every two years. Blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels should be checked every five years.
• Don’t smoke. And quit if you do. Because that’s easier said than done, ask your doctor for help.
• Stay active. This means 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Beyond brisk walking, try bike-riding, swimming, backpacking, or jumping rope.
• Enjoy a healthful, low-fat diet. Choose plenty of whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and chicken or turkey rather than red meat. Limit alcohol to one drink a day. And include catfish, flounder, salmon, and walnuts in your diet. These are good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise and a heart-friendly diet can help you do this. Your BMI should be between about 18 and 25, and your waist should be less than 35 inches.
• Get help for stress or depression. These issues may increase heart risks. Fortunately, healthy habits can go a long way in boosting mental as well as physical health.
East End Cardiology has an office at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport. The focus of the practice is on risk reduction and heart disease prevention through diet, exercise, stress management and smoking cessation for men and women. Consulting services include the management of hypertension, lipids and cholesterol. Diagnostic services include nuclear stress testing, echocardiography and holter monitoring.
John Pearson, MD is a board certified cardiologist on the Medical Staff at Eastern Long Island Hospital.