6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Having a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in the United States. It kills 1 in 4 women in this country. The most common cause is the narrowing and clogging of the arteries that feed blood to the heart. The good news is that you can control many of the risk factors for heart disease. Here are 6 ways you can reduce your risk.

  1. Get active.The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle it needs to be exercised. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Start slowly and work your way up. You can break this up into 3 10-minute blocks to make it easier. Exercise also helps lower cholesterol, which reduces the work your heart needs to do to keep beating. If you:
    • Have had a heart attack or heart disease
    • Are diabetic
    • Have been inactive a long time
    • Are over 55

    it’s best to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
  2. Reduce your bad cholesterol levels. Cholesterols are like fat in the arteries. Bad cholesterols (LDLs) clog the arteries and make blood work harder to flow to your organs, including your heart. If blood flow is cut off, you can have a heart attack. One way to reduce bad LDLs is to eat a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet, such as the DASH diet.
  3. Lower your blood pressure if it measures above 120/80. High blood pressure also forces the heart to work harder. High blood pressure, like high cholesterol levels, generally has no symptoms. This makes it very important that you visit your doctor every year to have your blood pressure tested.

    If your doctor tells you your blood pressure is higher than normal but not high enough for medication, it’s still important to check it regularly. Consider getting a blood pressure monitor to use at home. Drugstores also often have free monitors you can use to check your pressure. Following an eating plan such as the DASH diet and exercising regularly are good ways to get your blood pressure under control. If you’re pregnant, you should be monitored closely for high blood pressure. It can lead to a condition that is dangerous for you and the baby, preeclampsia.
  4. Control your diabetes. If you’re diabetic, you must manage the disease. Diabetes can lead to serious problems with heart disease. It’s vital that you work with your doctor, monitor your glucose levels regularly, take your medication, eat right, exercise, and lose weight if you’re overweight. EPFMC has an effective diabetes management program for our patients.
  5. Manage your weight. Being overweight affects all the other conditions here. Weight loss can result from regular exercise, portion control, and eating a sound diet, such as DASH. How much is a good weight for you? That depends on your height. Your body mass index (BMI) measures your body fat based on your height and weight. Calculate your BMI.
  6. If you smoke, stop. Need help quitting? Visit http://www.smokefree.gov/ to get free tools and join a community of people committed to quitting just like you.

Learn more about women and heart disease. Get informed, then get active.