W O M E N ‘ S H E A L T H

In Matters of the Heart

Here’s a surprising fact. Do you know the #1 cause of death in women? Cancer? That’s what most women said in a survey by the American Heart Association. But they were wrong. The truth is that heart attacks-plus strokes and other cardiovascular diseases- cause almost twice as many deaths in women as all forms of cancer combined.
What can you do about it? Fortunately, plenty. The first step is simply to be aware of the facts-because many of the risk factors for heart disease don’t hurt until it’s too late. The second step is to control your risks. True, some risk factors are beyond control:
Aging. The older you get, the more likely you’ll get hardening of the arteries.
Family history. If your sisters, brothers, or parents had heart disease before age 65, you’re more likely to inherit the same problem.
Personal history. Heart disease is not curable. If you have had a heart attack, you’re at greater risk for having another.
But the good news is that you can control six of the major risk factors:
Cholesterol. Make sure your doctor does a blood test (known as a lipid panel) to see if your cholesterol is high. High cholesterol can be treated.
Blood pressure. Check with your doctor at least once a year to measure your blood pressure. High blood pressure can be treated, too.
Smoking. If you’re a smoker, quit. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. After just three to five years, your risk of heart disease will be as low as that of someone who never smoked.
Weight. No surprise. Being overweight is a key risk factor for heart disease. Want to lose the risk? Lose the weight.
Exercise. Physical inactivity and being overweight often go hand in hand. So get moving! It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Park the car farther from the store. Start gardening. Even a brief walk can help-while clearing your mind and reducing stress.
Blood glucose. Ask your doctor to check your blood glucose level to be sure you’re not diabetic. Discuss good eating habits for healthy weight and diabetes prevention.
You can do it! Living well should be a part of the gift of life for everyone. And taking good care of your heart is a smart step in the right direction. – Lynette Weeman, D.O., F.A.C.C.
Maine Cardiology Associates

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