February is American Heart Month, so we want to focus on the steps women can take to prevent heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among women in the United States (one in five women who die each year succumb to heart disease).
As part of our women’s heart health services, Dr. Satjit Bhusri and the team here at Upper East Side Cardiology want to provide you with seven heart-healthy steps you can get started on today.
1. Establish a baseline
One of the most important things you can do is to establish a baseline of your cardiovascular health through a complete assessment with us. During this evaluation, we review your family history, your risks, and gather baseline information about your heart health, including your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
Armed with this information, you better understand your starting point and what you need to do to practice solid preventive cardiology care.
2. Single loop shopping
It’s all well and good to say that you need to overhaul your diet in favor of healthier foods, but it hardly gives you a jumping-off point. The bottom line is that a heart-healthy diet includes far fewer processed foods and more whole foods, which are usually found to the far left, far right, and far back of most grocery stores.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins are often located on the perimeters of those middle aisles lined with processed and canned foods.
So, on your next shopping trip, challenge yourself to do most of your shopping in a single loop on the outer perimeter.
3. Substitute your flavoring
For many people, a high sodium (salt) intake can lead to higher blood pressure, so we urge you to take as much salt out of your diet as possible. When flavoring foods, ditch the salt shaker and use other flavorings, such as lemon, garlic, cayenne, or other spices that deliver a flavorful punch without the sodium.
4. Get your heart rate up
Exercise is critical to good cardiovascular health, and the American Heart Association suggests that you get at least 150 minutes per week of physical exercise that gets your heart rate up.
If you’re not an exercise person, no problem, as you can meet these goals during the course of your day. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator is a great way to get in a little workout. By the same token, skip the bus or cab every once in a while and walk to your destination.
5. Find ways to relax
Stress plays no small role in your heart health and can contribute to high blood pressure, among other problems. We know that there’s no shortage of stress in our lives these days, but taking little breaks for deep breathing, stretching, or a walk in the park can do wonders for lowering your stress levels.
Another great way to de-stress is to turn off all screens and listen to music or read a book.
6. Quit bad habits like smoking
We recognize that quitting a habit like smoking is anything but easy, but it’s one of the best steps you can take to promote better heart health. We’re not asking that you up and quit today (though that would be great), but we do want to stick that thought in your head and ask that you at least click on the link here to see how you can get started.
7. Lose a little weight
Another tough hurdle to improved cardiovascular health is weight loss. If you’re carrying extra pounds, you’re placing more stress on your heart and blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease.
The fact is that if you follow some of our tips above, such as those to do with diet and exercise, the pounds will come off.
As well, you should bear in mind that losing just 5%-10% of your body weight can make a big difference in your cardiovascular health. If you’re 180 pounds, for example, taking off just 9-18 pounds is a much more achievable goal than trying to knock off the 40 or 50 pounds you’ve gained in adulthood.
If you’re a woman with more questions about improving your heart health, or you’d like to establish your baseline, contact our office on the Upper East Side of New York City today.