Tomorrow, Friday Feb. 1, is national Wear Red Day, to spread awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. Breast cancer gets a lot of press, sells a lot of pink football gear, and is feared by women, but more women die every year of heart disease than all cancers combined, not just breast cancer. About one in four deaths in U.S. women is from heart disease. The good news is that there are actions you can take to avoid dying of heart disease. The good news is also the bad news. I’m not talking about going to your doctor, getting testing, taking medication or anything that easy. I’m talking about really hard things; lifestyle changes that can save your life. Here are 5 things you can do to reduce your risk of dying of heart disease:
- Quit smoking: If you smoke, the biggest single thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing and dying of coronary disease is to quit smoking. Although obesity may rival or surpass smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. quitting smoking is the number one change you can make to reduce your chance of a heart attack and cardiac death. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Quit today. It’s far more helpful than wearing red.
- Eat Healthier: Eat more fruit and vegetables and reduce your meat ingestion. Evidence abounds that reducing your intake of saturated fats primarily found in animal fats including meat, dairy products and eggs can reduce your cardiac risk. Eating real fruits and vegetables has far more benefit than taking vitamins or supplements to try to get the same healthy vitamins and other healthy ingredients.
- Exercise more: Regular exercise that increases your heart rate and respiratory rate is an effective way to improve your cardiac health. It’s not called “cardio” exercise for nothing. If you are concerned about your cardiac status see your physician to get clearance and advice about exercise.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol: If you don’t know your blood pressure, get it checked periodically. If you don’t know your cholesterol numbers see your physician and get them checked. High blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for heart attack and stroke, and it is almost always manageable. In the U.S. we do a terrible job of detecting and managing hypertension. Don’t be one of the millions with undiagnosed or undertreated high blood pressure. Find out and treat it.
- Secondary Prevention: If you have known atherosclerotic disease, including peripheral artery disease, coronary disease or cerebrovascular disease (stroke), be aggressive about secondary prevention. Many interventions including all of the above as well as daily aspirin use and in some situations medical or surgical interventions can make huge differences.
So wear red tomorrow if it makes you feel better, but if you really want to make a difference do something to improve your cardiac risk profile and heart health. Wardrobe changes are easy, but it is more important that you take action to prevent cardiac death using the steps above. You can make a difference. Do it today!
To see more about what causes heart disease see an earlier post.