By Shari Lopatin
TriWest Healthcare Alliance
PHOENIX — One out of every four women dies from heart disease in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
It’s the top killer of U.S. women and men.
Heart disease begins with damage to the lining inside the heart’s arteries. Certain factors contribute to this damage, including smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
February is American Heart Month. You can help lower your risk for heart disease, and here are the top four ways to do it:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that being overweight raises your risk for developing heart disease. Therefore, make sure that you maintain a healthy weight — or Body Mass Index — for your height.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a BMI calculator on their website. After typing in your height and weight, the BMI calculator will show if you’re within a healthy weight range. Should you discover you need to lose weight:
- Look at ways to exercise more throughout the week
- Consider decreasing your meal’s portion sizes
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats (such as poultry or fish)
Try to Quit Smoking
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. The nicotine in cigarettes increases blood pressure; and high blood pressure damages your heart’s arteries. Smoking can also cause blood clotting and may directly damage cells that line arteries in your heart.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure — and Lower it if Necessary
“Years of high blood pressure can lead to heart disease,” says the Department of Health and Human Services on its website. “People with high blood pressure often have no symptoms, so have your blood pressure checked every one to two years and get treatment if you need it.”
Besides medication, you can lower your blood pressure by losing weight, limiting stress (or coping with it well) and exercising at least two hours and 30 minutes each week.
Get Tested for Diabetes and High Cholesterol Regularly
Too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting the blood it needs. And having diabetes raises your chances of developing heart disease. With both these issues, the only way to detect something wrong is through a blood test.
You can lower cholesterol by losing weight and eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. And while you cannot fix diabetes once it’s been diagnosed, you can help prevent it by maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise.