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Heart Health Center

Your Healthy Heart: A Woman’s Guide

Follow these 12 steps to preventing heart disease -- the number 1 threat to a woman's health.
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Healthy Heart Step 4: Start your healthy-heart checkups at age 20. "All women should be screened for heart disease starting at 20," saysGoldberg. Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol and blood pressure, and screen you for diabetes. "We have to work on risk factors early, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, smoking, and diabetes," she says. If your mom had a heart attack before age 60 or your dad had one before 45, your family history ups your risk, as well.

Healthy Heart Step 5: Whittle away your middle. Being overweight is a major risk factor for heart disease -- and where you store your fat plays a role. "Women who carry their weight around the middle, as opposed to the butt, hips, and thighs, are at highrisk for heart disease," says Marie Savard, MD, an internist in private practice in Philadelphia and author of How to Save Your Own Life. "The good news is that this may be the most dangerous fat to have, but it's the easiest fat to lose," Savard says.

How to lose that "menopot" of belly fat that can accumulate later in life and raise heart disease risk? Steer clear of devilish white carbohydrates. "When women approach menopause," says Goldberg, "they become more carb-intolerant and more sensitive to the effects of simple sugar and white carbohydrates. Decrease your intake of sugar and white-floured foods," Goldberg says. Instead of white rice, order brown rice with Chinese take-out. Ditch that Kaiser roll for whole wheat toast.

Healthy Heart Step 6: Say no to trans fats. Women who eat the most trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are 3 times more likely to develop heart disease than women who eat fewer trans fats, according to a study of nearly 33,000 women done by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. To lower heart disease risk, scale back on trans fats by avoiding fried foods and eating fewer packaged foods like cookies, crackers, and pastries. "Women need to look at good nutrients from all food groups, including good fats like canola and olive oils, flaxseed oil, and walnuts," Goldberg says.

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