10 Things Indian Women Should Do to Protect Their Hearts

 - Sakshi Post

Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in women, accounting for 1 in every 4 female deaths. Contrary to popular belief, women are nearly as susceptible to heart disease as men, especially if they are post-menopausal or diabetic or overweight. This International Women’s Day, let’s look at what can women do to prevent heart disease:

Estimate your risk of having a heart attack.

Coronary or ischemic heart disease can be hereditary and tends to run in families. If you have a first-degree relative who has had heart disease, then you too have an increased risk of having heart disease. Then there are simple algorithms that can help you to determine your risk of having a heart attack. These algorithms take into account your age and the presence of cardiac risk factors like smoking, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia. Depending upon your risk status, you can take appropriate preventive steps in consultation with your doctor.

Know your numbers

It is important that you should know what your ideal body weight and waist circumference should be, as well as your blood pressure and your sugar and cholesterol values, as these are major risk factors for heart disease. If your levels are abnormal, then you must take appropriate measures to bring them down to normal.

 Physical Activity:

It is recommended to undergo 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week - averaging out to approximately 45 minutes of exercise five days per week. This includes brisk walking, running, jogging, swimming, dancing.

Have a heart-healthy diet:

A heart-healthy diet includes a low-fat and low-salt diet, liberal amounts of fiber, vegetables, fruits. Avoid saturated fats, sugary items, processed food, and red meat. 

Lose weight:

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor. Any woman whose body-mass index is more than 25 or whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches has an increased risk of heart disease. Regular exercise and strict diet control will help in reducing and maintaining your body weight.

 Avoid smoking:

Alarmingly, the prevalence of smoking in women is increasing. Although women smoke far less than men, smoking may be more detrimental in women than men. Female smokers die 14.5 years earlier than female non-smokers. But the good thing is that if you stop smoking, your risk reduces to that of a non-smoker by 1 year. E-cigarettes or vaping is equally bad if not worse.

Oral contraceptive pills:

Even though naturally producing Estrogen is cardio-protective, post menopause any externally given Estrogen does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, it only increases the risk of heart disease and thrombosis (blood clot formation). Therefore, use with caution and under medical supervision.

Stress management:

Stress is another important risk factor that unfortunately cannot be measured. Stress is almost inevitable in our lives, especially for women who have to manage household chores, work-related issues, and different relationships. But it is how you manage your stress that influences your susceptibility to heart disease. Yoga and meditation can be very useful in coping with stress. Regular meditation can lower your sympathetic activity and reduce the risk of heart diseases. Exploring your interests and hobbies is an essential component of a sound mind and thereby, robust cardiovascular health.

Be in sync with your Circadian Rhythm:

Adequate sleep and rest form an essential component of a sound cardiovascular system. Irregular sleep hours and inadequate sleep have been shown to increase blood pressure and adversely affect cardiovascular health. Decreasing your screen time after 9:00 pm can help induce better sleep.

Cardiac medications:

If you are a heart patient or have diabetes, high BP, or high cholesterol, then you would have been prescribed certain medications by your doctor. Familiarize yourself with your medications and ensure that you take them regularly as prescribed because some of these medicines have been shown to reduce your chance of having a heart attack and sometimes even prolong your survival.

By Dr. Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai shares

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