By Susan Ince
The brutal truth: When a woman suffers a heart attack, she is more likely than a man to die, be permanently disabled, or have a second attack within a year. "We could do a lot to give women longer lives and better-quality lives if we could help them recognize heart problems before the first attack," says Jean C. McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N., nurse researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. In an award-winning research project, she interviewed hundreds of heart...
Atherosclerosis is common, unpredictable, and potentially deadly. Is there any good news? Because atherosclerosis takes decades to progress, the process can be slowed down at any point, reducing the risk.
Regardless of your age, there are specific steps you can take to slow down atherosclerosis. Take a moment to consider what changes you can make today, to protect your arteries later.
Preventing Atherosclerosis: In Your 20s and 30s
Almost no one develops complications from atherosclerosis at this age. Still, studies show the process has begun by our 20s or even younger. In these studies, risk factors mattered: young people with obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or who smoked had more-advanced early atherosclerosis.
Instead of treating atherosclerosis, the key here is developing good habits that will last a lifetime. Don't force it; instead, try to imagine how better habits might fit into your life.
Exercise: Make it a hobby to find some physical activity you enjoy. The idea of sticking to a boring, unpleasant exercise schedule for the next 40 years would send anyone to the couch. Experiment with different activities until you find something you like. If you get sick of that, try something else.
Diet: Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is effective at preventing heart disease. Make it a habit to try something different in the produce aisle each time you hit the supermarket.
Preventing Atherosclerosis: In Your 40s and 50s
The rate of developing atherosclerosis accelerates in middle age, and so should your approach to reducing the risk.