1. My father has heart disease. What can I do to prevent it in myself and the rest of my family?
Unfortunately, heart disease remains a major problem in the United States. When most people speak of heart disease, they are really talking about narrowing of the coronary arteries that feed our heart muscle. Narrowing occurs because of plaque build-up and can lead to heart attacks or even heart failure.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to prevent heart disease. In fact, these actions also will help to prevent certain cancers. The best advice is to exercise at least 3½ hours per week and not smoke. Eat a healthy diet for yourself and your whole family – one that consists of a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and whole wheat products, fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring) and avoid a diet high in red meat. Interestingly, you can have one alcoholic beverage per day, but don’t overdo it.
2. What are some of the risks for heart disease that are more predominately seen in women versus men?
There are five health habits that can lead to an 80 percent decrease in the chance that a woman will have a heart attack or major heart problems.
1. Never smoke.
2. Exercise at least 30-45 minutes every day – this could be something as simple as walking.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet, one that’s low in saturated fats (red meat, pastries, etc.), high in fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates, as well as eating a lot of fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Keep your weight at an ideal level and make sure that your waist is no more than 35 inches around.
5. Aim for no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. This does not mean that if you don’t drink alcohol you need to begin, but one alcoholic beverage per day for a woman has shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. However, women, need to check with their doctor, because for some women it can increase their risk of breast cancer.
6. Know your family history and your numbers, such as total cholesterol, bad (LDL) and good (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and waist size.
3. Can stress in my life affect my heart?
Stress affects us, because our brain and body are connected. Our body’s reaction to a perceived, or real, stressor activates survival mechanisms that can protect us if we are directly under threat, such as if someone is trying to attack us. But that reaction can also have bad effects on our body if the stress is a routine part of every day. Stress-related hormones can have serious effects not only on the arteries, but also on the brain and immune system.
Women, unfortunately, try to do it all – work hard, run their home, manage the children and often their parents’ affairs. Women spread themselves thin leading to high stress levels causing a bad effect on their health and their heart. Chronic stressors can include such things as anger, fear, jealousy and poor social connections.
Simple things like exercise (a major stress buster), getting enough sleep, and setting realistic goals, can help you manage stress. Finally, delegate, delegate, delegate! Ask your family to help you manage stress.
Piedmont Heart Institute
275 Collier Road, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309