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What can women do to decrease their risk for heart disease?

Women and men can take control and manage their risk for heart disease. Except for age and heredity, all other risk factors for heart disease can be controlled through simple lifestyle changes.

• Don’t smoke.
• Keep a healthy weight.
• Be physically active at least 30 to 45 minutes every day.
• Eat right – more fruits and vegetables, less fat and fewer processed foods.
• Know what your blood pressure is. Lower is always better.
• Know what your cholesterol is.

Extreme stress is another risk factor that has only recently been identified as contributing to heart disease. Average daily stress is not a contributing risk factor for heart disease but more devastating, chronic stress can lead to inflammation that affects the heart. Also, depression, if left untreated, creates a double-fold risk of heart attack. Some of the best treatment for chronic stress and depression is social engagement. People experience profound benefit from even small amounts of interaction. Church groups, exercise groups, book clubs, dog walking – all can help people improve their mental health and outlook.

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