Last week we discussed why women often don’t get diagnosed and treated for a heart attack quickly enough. In brief,
Educating yourself on the symptoms of heart attack in men and women could mean saving a life – including your own.
But what’s even better than knowing what a heart attack looks and feels like? Never knowing what a heart attack looks and feels like.
We all know the drill: more leafy greens, cut back on refined sugar, aim for quality, whole-grain carbs, reduce the meats, and boost the nuts, fruits, and veggies. But women’s bodies change during menopause, meaning their nutritional needs change too. Even if you’re not at high risk for heart disease, some dietary adjustments can help you meet your nutritional needs. Here are some special steps women can take to help preserve heart health:
Yep, finding the time and will to exercise is tough, but there are so many massive benefits to women over 40, it’s difficult to overstate the case.
To maximize health benefit, it’s great to do a lot of things: a little weight-bearing, impact exercise for bone density (like running); strength training to build and maintain muscle (I love rock climbing, my friend Anne swings kettle balls); some good cardio-vascular for your heart and lungs (walking, cycling, swimming); and some focusing activity for strength of body and mind (yoga).
Whatever you do, in whatever combination, try to get in 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Just be sure any increases are made slowly and carefully, so your body is ready for the demand.
Healthy diet and regular exercise are obvious ways to increase heart health and lower your risk of heart disease. But certain lifestyle choices can have huge heart-health impacts. Two of the biggies: smoking and depression.
Smoking. The 1950s called and they want their bad habit back. OK, we know it’s so much easier to say “quit” than it is to do it, but if you’re at or approaching menopause, now more than ever, you need to snuff out your last cigarette. Women who smoke may enter menopause sooner (meaning fewer years with estrogen’s protective benefits) and can experience more intense symptoms. Quitting smoking can be one of the most profound things you do to protect your future health.
Depression. A 10-year study conducted by Reading Hospital ob/gyn Xuezhi Jiang, MD and colleagues revealed that depression can contribute – significantly – to a woman’s risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) in midlife. According to Dr. Jiang, “We saw a significant difference in the association of depression with the risk for CAD based on a patient’s age. Compared with women aged 65 years and older, women under the age of 65 were far more likely to incur CAD as a result of depression.” Dr. Jiang strongly recommends that any woman at or approaching menopausal age who has a history of depression be proactive and get regular screenings.
Even if your feelings of depression don’t require professional intervention or treatment, all women can benefit from being proactive with their mental health. A big one? Staying social. Because of incontinence, hot flashes, and other “embarrassing” symptoms, women may limit social interaction during this time. Chances are other women in your age group are experiencing similar issues, so get together, talk it out, share solutions, and create the support network that can help you all be healthier.
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