Research shows that women have higher life expectancies than men on average, but they are also more vulnerable to some severe health issues. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease is one of the leading causes of death in women.
One of the common causes of heart disease is the narrowing or blockage of the vessels that supply blood to the heart. This is known as coronary artery disease, and it often develops slowly over time. Although it is quite unusual, women between the ages of 20 and 30 can also be prone to this condition. The symptoms associated with coronary artery disease are chest pain, abnormal heart rhythm, a burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, sweating and pain in the arm or jaw. Major contributing factors include high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, family history of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress and lack of physical activity.
Now that you know the basics of coronary artery disease, here’s what women can do to help prevent it. To improve their heart health, women should:
Know your risk factors- One of the first steps to prevent coronary artery disease in women is to understand one’s individual risk factors. The two most significant causes of this disease are high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels can be helpful to prevent heart disease. It’s also important to be aware of any family history of heart disease.
Eat heart-healthy- One of the best ways to prevent heart diseases is to switch to a nutritious diet that is to adopt a healthy low-fat and high-fibre diet. This means consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, fish, eggs, lean meats and beans.
Cut down on unhealthy choices- To lower the risk of coronary artery disease and reduce cholesterol levels, it’s important to limit the amount of foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, including whole milk, butter, fatty meats, coconut and palm oil. Trans fats are also found in biscuits, microwave popcorn, doughnuts, cakes, cream-filled candies and fried fast food. In addition, it’s a good idea to limit or avoid meals prepared with hydrogenated vegetable oil, alcoholic beverages and foods that are high in sugar or salt. And be mindful of your portion sizes; using a small bowl or plate can help.
Get moving- Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. One of the best ways to reduce weight is to combine a healthy diet with a regular exercise routine. There are numerous health benefits associated with exercise, including improving cholesterol, maintaining blood pressure at a healthy level, and stimulating the heart and circulatory system. Any aerobic exercise – such as cycling, walking, running, swimming and dance – contributes to healthy functioning of the heart.
Say no to smoking- Another common and significant risk factor for heart disease is smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes restricts blood vessels, which makes the heart work harder than normal to circulate blood throughout the body. Smoking also lowers the amount of good cholesterol and increases blood pressure, which in turn causes stress on your arteries. Once you quit smoking, the oxygen supply will increase and your risk for heart diseases reduces. And of course, smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, so quitting is especially beneficial.
Adopting and maintaining these lifestyle choices isn’t always easy. But for women who want to stay heart-healthy, it’s well worth it. Your heart will thank you!