Your Healthy Heart: A Woman’s Guide
Follow these 12 steps to preventing heart disease -- the number 1 threat to a woman's health.
Healthy Heart Step 8: Shake your salt habit. After 55, women are more
likely to develop high blood pressure than men,says the AHA. Eating too much
salt can raise your blood pressure -- which is why all heart-healthy recipes
use no salt at all, or low-sodium ingredients.
Your goal? Keep your blood pressure at 120/80 mm/Hg or below. Start by
tossing out your salt shaker and reading food labels to add up the sodium
content, Goldberg says. "Limit your salt intake to less than 2.3 grams of salt
per day," she says. The AHA agrees: most doctors advise limiting yourself to
2,300 mg of salt daily. "Restaurant food tends to be heavily salted," Goldberg
says, "so ask for the sauce and salad dressings on the side."
Healthy Heart Step 9: Eat fish twice a week."Eating fish at least
twice a week can lower your triglycerides and help boost your levels of HDL, or
'good,' cholesterol," says Sangala. The key is to eat fatty fish like mackerel,
salmon, or sardines, which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, the protective fats
good for your heart.
If you already have heart disease or high triglycerides, ask your doctor if
fish oil supplements might be right for you. There are 2 forms of omega 3 fatty
acids found in fish oil supplements -- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA
(docosahexaenoic acid) -- which the AHA advises to help some women build a more
Healthy Heart Step 10: Limit alcohol. While an occasional glass of
red wine might be heart-healthy, too much wine, beer, or liquor does more harm
than good -- especially for women. "Women can have one glass of wine a day,"
Sangala says, "because when they begin to take more than that, it can actually
raise your triglycerides, so you can lose some of the benefits."
Healthy Heart Step 11: Control stress. "Women tend to be eternal
caregivers, meaning that they provide care without limits or boundaries and
often get swallowed up in a hectic schedule," says Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH,
assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and
author of Body For Life for Women. "This increases levels of the stress
hormone cortisol on a chronic basis, and high levels of cortisol are known to
set women up for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart
Stress also kick-starts a vicious cycle of turning to food for comfort. Your
best bet? Learn to say no more often, she says. "Breathing also works like a
charm when you feel yourself getting distressed," she says. "Take a deep breath
and blow it out slowly."
Healthy Heart Step 12: Reduce your risk of diabetes. "Women with
diabetes have 5 to 7 times the risk of heart disease or heart attack," Peeke
says. She suggests measuring your girth -- the circumference around your
abdomen at the belly button. "Make sure your girth is below 35 inches; if it's
not, we have a big problem. You are now at huge risk for diabetes and heart
If you're overweight, you can lower your risk of diabetes -- and thus heart
disease -- by dropping pounds. For starters, Peeke says, "Try eating small
meals every 3 or 4 hours so you don't binge. Reign in your portions and refined
sugars, and watch the quality of your carbs." In other words, she says, "Opt
for oatmeal, not a scone at Starbucks."