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Heart Disease in Women

When it comes to heart health, your life choices today will have a big impact on your lifestyle later on. Heart disease often has no symptoms early on, developing silently over a lifetime in conjunction with habits including smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, diabetes and more. But there are things you can do now to help prevent heart disease and ensure a healthier lifestyle in your future.

Put out that cigarette.

Smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack, and up to four times as likely to develop heart disease. That may have something to do with the tar, nicotine and more than 4,800 other toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke, which have been shown to increase your blood pressure, harden arteries, restrict the blood flow to your heart and raise your blood pressure.

Start moving.

If you can find 30 minutes to an hour each day to watch television, you can find time to exercise. And if you swap some of that TV time for physical activity, you can reap all sorts of benefits: lower blood pressure, better cholesterol, higher energy, improved heart function and, of course, it will be easier to maintain a healthy weight. The American Heart Association estimates that every hour of exercise can add two hours to your life expectancy — even if you start working out in middle age.

Eat a nutritious, healthy diet.

Talk to your doctor about the benefits of a healthy diet. That means limiting saturated fats found in beef and dairy products and increasing your servings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Avoid trans fats found in fried foods, margarine or crackers, and add sources of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet to help lower your risk of heart attack and improve your blood pressure.

Maintain a healthy weight.

A body carrying too much weight is forcing its heart to work harder. In addition, obesity has been linked to a host of problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. If you’re a woman whose waistline measures more than 35 inches, that’s an indicator that you may be overweight. Work with your doctor to develop a healthy, sustainable program of exercise and good nutrition.

There are other steps you can take now to prevent heart disease in the future. Limit your alcohol intake, get regular screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol, try to reduce stress and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes. Even simple things like swapping out a bag of chips for a serving of fruit, or taking a walk instead of napping after a meal, can make a difference.

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Heart Quiz

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