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Health Care

Ten Tips to Prevention

If you are anything like me, heart disease is one of the last health concerns you worry about. I have other medical concerns that make me jump over to my computer to self-diagnose my symptoms via WebMD, such as skin cancer, breast cancer, food poisoning, stomach flu, as well as a myriad of other illnesses my children bring home from preschool and daycare. However, heart disease is the number one killer of women, attributing to a third of all deaths. Everyone, regardless of age, should get caught up on the facts of this potentially fatal disease.

According to Go Red For Women, a campaign sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA) aimed at providing heart disease information to women, there are several proactive ways to start taking care of your heart. The AHA suggests starting these preventative practices in your twenties and carrying on with them throughout the years.

1. Map Your Family History

Ask your family if anyone has had heart disease or any of the risk factors for heart disease. If the answer is yes, your chances for developing heart disease increases. Discuss with your doctor.

2. Don't Smoke and Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Smoking or being around secondhand smoke can put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and several other diseases. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the U.S.

3. Drink in Moderation

If you drink too much alcohol, your blood pressure can increase and lead to stroke, and/or in some cases, cause heart failure. Keep in mind that for women, moderate drinking is no more than one drink per day.

4. Choose Birth Control Carefully

Some oral contraceptives, even more modern options, can cause an increase in your blood pressure. Remember that cigarette smoking and oral birth control use can substantially increase the risk of serious cardiovascular disease.

5. Know Your Numbers

The AHA recommends asking your doctor to check and track your numbers for the following: cholesterol; triglycerides; blood pressure; fasting glucose; Body Mass Index; waist circumference; exercise minutes/day.

6. Eat Heart Healthy

In short, look for heart-healthy foods like:

• Fruits or vegetables

• Fiber-rich, whole grains

• Lean meat, fish or skinless chicken

• Fat-free, 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products

• Foods broiled, baked, grilled, steamed or poached

• Foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars

7. Be Active

For women of any age, the AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity, aerobic physical activity each week but do not feel you have to do it all at once. If time is an issue, split it up in 10 minute intervals throughout the day.

8. Watch Your Weight

Take pride in taking care of your health. Watch for the triggers such as stress or depression that make you vulnerable to weight gain. Keeping a food journal can really help track when you are most prone to snacking.

9. Talk to Your Doctor

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by starting your heart disease screenings (see the Know Your Numbers section) now. Visiting your doctor and having these numbers will make it easier to know if something changes in the future.

10. Take AHA's Assessment Tool

Take the Go Red Heart CheckUp today to learn your risk for heart disease. This tool is available at www.goredforwomen.org

Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer who lives in Stafford with her husband and two children.

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