Nicki Anderson: Celebrate National Heart Month
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun February 4, 2013 3:52PM
Updated: March 7, 2013 6:20AM
February has blown in with the reminder that it is still very much winter. February also brings the month of love and heart health awareness.
During National Heart Month, my columns will focus on prevention education as well as some insight in to heart disease that you might not be aware of.
We all have within our power the ability to make healthier choices.
Why not use National Heart Month as an excuse to choose wisely.
Feb. 1 is recognized as Go Red for Women.
Go Red raises awareness about women and heart disease. Women are just as vulnerable if not more to heart disease and heart attacks as men.
In fact, according to The American Heart Association since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. And though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all cancers combined, only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
Unfortunately, women comprise only 20 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.
Yet, heart disease causes 1 in 3 deaths in women each year, killing about one woman every minute.
Probably the most frightening is that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. That number is alarmingly high.
So how can you be proactive with your health? What can you do today that can reduce your risks of heart disease?
It starts with being ready and willing to make the necessary changes for a healthy heart.
Studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day.
Check out these suggestions to positively impact your health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Quit smoking — Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times.
If you’re a woman who smokes, you have a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease as compared to men who smoke.
Smoking damages your blood vessels and makes your blood sticky — a recipe for dangerous blood clots.
Get your blood pressure under control — know your numbers!
Normal: Less than 120 systolic (top number) and less than 80 diastolic (bottom number)
Pre-hypertension: 120 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic
Hypertension: 140 or higher systolic or 90 or higher diastolic
Hypertensive crisis: Higher than 180 or higher than 110 diastolic
Lower your cholesterol. When cholesterol builds up in the inner walls of your arteries over time, it hardens and turns into plaque. Plaque can clog artery walls and reduce blood flow, which can result in blood clots, heart attacks or strokes. Many people have high cholesterol without knowing it because there are no symptoms. Again, know your numbers!
Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL —Desirable level that puts you at lower risk for heart disease.
200 to 239 mg/dL: Considered borderline high.
240 mg/dL and above: High blood cholesterol. A person with this level has more than twice the risk of heart disease.
Know your family history — The risk of heart disease and risk factors are strongly linked to your family history.
Given that my grandfather had a stroke at 38, my risk of having a stroke is much greater. However, regular exercise, knowing my numbers, staying at a healthy weight all help to reduce my risk of following in his footsteps.
Focus on a healthy diet. Though many know they should be eating more fruits and vegetables, it’s doesn’t always happen. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains is your best defense against the onset of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Watch your sodium intake keeping to less than 1,500 mg a day. Also, limit sugar, processed meats and saturated fats.
Maintain a healthy weight. As a woman, you have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure if you are 20 pounds or more overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure, or have reached menopause. Following the above will keep your weight in a healthy range.
As women we’re notorious for being caretakers for everyone but ourselves. During the month of February, take a personal inventory and see what you can do today to cut your risk of heart disease. No better time than now to take care of you!