You’ve heard the statistics before.
There’s no doubt about it, heart disease is a killer. And despite what you see on TV and in the movies, more women are clutching their chests and dying from this disease than men.
It’s frightening, but it doesn’t have to be. Because heart disease is preventable.
In fact, it could be prevented in an incredible 80 percent of cases!
Let me show you how.
5 simple steps to prevent heart disease
You’re just five steps away from slashing your heart disease risk up to 80 percent.
Slash Your Heart Disease Risk Step 1: Don’t skip your annual visit:
Preventing heart disease is all about, well, prevention. And with that in mind one of the best things you can do to slash your own heart disease risk is to schedule your annual well-woman visit.
Even if you feel perfectly healthy a once a year visit gives your doctor the opportunity to check all your numbers and make sure there aren’t any hidden health problems (after all they call heart disease the silent killer for a reason). She’ll do the standard checks such as weight, blood pressure and blood sugar.
But don’t let your visit end there. Take advantage of the time you have with your doctor to talk about your family health history. If heart issues run in your family you may be at a higher risk for heart problems yourself and a screening for heart disease may be in order.
And be sure to share any bothersome symptom you’re having big or small. Women’s heart attack symptoms can differ drastically from men’s.
Besides the standard chest pain, women are far more likely than men to experience…
- shortness of breath
The fact is YOU’RE the best judge of whether or not something is wrong, so never hesitate to tell your doctor if anything feels off. It could very well save your life.
Slash Your Heart Disease Risk Step 2: Stop smoking:
There’s simply no way for me to express how important this second step is. Smoking isn’t just damaging to the body, for women it more than DOUBLES your risk for a heart attack and stroke.
When you smoke you’re…
- bumping up your blood pressure
- gumming up your blood vessels with plaque
- reducing your HDL or good cholesterol levels
And let’s not forget the wrinkles, smelly clothes and hair, and bad breath.
I’m not going to tell you quitting smoking is easy, because it’s not. But I will tell you that it will be worth the struggle.
Slash Your Heart Disease Risk Step 3: Diet do-over:
You knew this one was coming, right?
Well the good news is it’s not nearly as difficult to make this change as you might imagine. In fact, if you follow the Mediterranean Diet you might end up swearing it’s not a “diet” at all.
The Mediterranean Diet is terrific for your heart and super easy to follow. But best of all it’s downright delicious. Get started by concentrating on eating more fresh and tasty legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Switch to extra virgin olive oil and fresh organic naturally lean meats, and opt for lots of fresh spices to flavor your meals instead of just salt.
If you have high blood pressure and are salt sensitive consider the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) which can help lower your blood pressure in only two weeks. DASH is a lot Like the Mediterranean Diet, but you reduce your portion sizes so you are taking in around 2,000 calories (don’t worry, you can fit in a LOT of delicious food for 2,000) and 2,300 milligrams of salt in a day.
But keep in mind there’s no reason to completely change your diet 100 percent overnight. In fact trying to do that can be overwhelming and set you up for failure.
Start with small, but hugely impactful, changes first. For example try giving up junk food first. When you wake up one day and realize you don’t miss it any more than maybe target processed foods next by replacing your store-bought meals with fresh ingredients to make your own instead.
|Women’s Major Risk Factors for Heart Disease|
|High blood pressure|
|High blood cholesterol|
|Diabetes and pre-diabetes|
|Being overweight or obese|
|Being physically inactive|
|Family history of early heart disease|
|History of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy|
|Over age 55|
Slash Your Heart Disease Risk Step 4: Move it (or lose your LIFE):
I tell all my patients to just get moving. There’s no way around it, physical activity is absolutely essential for a healthy heart.
But here’s the thing, your body actually LIKES moving. It’s just that many of us have forgotten how good it feels so when our mind suggests sitting down and watching TV instead we do.
But I promise you if you find the activity you love to do and just do it you will feel so good you’ll never choose the couch again. The payoffs are simply just too good, including…
- reduced stress
- better blood flow
- sounder sleep
- improved mood
And, of course, that’s not all. You’re also are doing amazing things for your heart.
Carrying around just 30 extra pounds of weight sends your heart disease risk climbing. But when you get moving on a regular basis with fitness in mind, weight loss almost always follows as well.
Slash Your Heart Disease Risk Step 5: Slash stress & overcome depression
When you accomplish step 4 you’ve already started on step 5 without even realizing it. Both stress and depression can send your heart disease risk skyrocketing. But when you’re getting regular exercise you’re already addressing both.
Stress once served a very important purpose for human beings. When we are stressed our bodies start producing the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, known as the “fight or flight” hormone, basically prepares your body to do just what its nickname implies, fight off a threat or hightail it out of there to save your skin.
Cortisol bumps up your heart rate, sends your blood pressure climbing and dumps sugar into your blood stream, all of which are great if you’re about to fight (or run from) a grizzly bear. But today we’re much more likely to encounter a traffic jam or work crisis than a grizzly bear.
Many of us find ourselves in a chronic state of low-grade stress and that means your being exposed to cortisol day and night. This constant exposure puts stress on your body damaging brain and blood vessels and your heart.
Stress also leads to inflammation and this in turn mucks up your coronary arteries with sticky plaque.
The bottom line is stress kills and it’s critical to find a stress reliever that works for you. The exercise in step 4 will help. I also encourage my patients to give meditation, yoga or even simple stretches a try. Try Youtube for some great, free instructional videos. In fact, here’s a simple, quick, meditation video to get you started…
Remember, if you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed don’t suffer in silence make an appointment to see your doctor today.
Born in New York City, and raised in both Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut, Dr. Haythe used her competitiveness and determination as a horseback rider at Greenwich Academy to excel at academics as well. Never one to sit still for long – Dr. Haythe knew early on that a regular desk job would not work for her. Drawing on an early love of science and desire to help others made pursuing a career in the medical field a natural fit.
Dr. Haythe went earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and went on to complete her medical training and residency at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2003. Initially planning a career in Pulmonary Critical Care, Dr. Haythe decided to switch to Cardiology after speaking with her mentor Dr. Donna Mancini.
Upon completing a fellowship for congestive-heart failure-cardiac transplants in 2005 (under Dr. Mancini), and cardiovascular diseases fellowship in 2009, Dr. Haythe began practicing at Columbia University Medical Center. Her specialties include pulmonary hypertension, heart failure and cardiac transplant.
Despite Cardiology being a heavily male dominated medical field, Dr. Haythe has become a sought after specialist in New York City – with particular interest in both chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) and the care of pregnant women with cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Haythe continues to find her own motivation and determination through the strong patient and family relationships she has forged, and the gratification of helping her patients get a new life with a heart transplant or assist devices, allowing patients to be able to live a full life with their families, as well as helping pregnant women safely deliver children and be able to care for them with post-delivery health care.
Dr. Haythe lives and practices in New York City. When not working, she enjoys an active lifestyle that includes running, boxing and yoga, as well as spending time with her husband, Eli and their two children.
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