How To Improve Women’s Cardiac Health
With today being International Women’s Day, it is a perfect time to celebrate women’s vitality which includes staying fit and healthy.
It is important for both your body and mind to eat the right things, remain physically active and reduce stress levels.
We will be specifically focusing on how these factors impact on women’s cardiac health and what can be done to maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
A study by Harvard shows that more women than men die of heart disease each year. It is therefore important to highlight the potential risk factors and significant lifestyle choices that all women can make to help prevent disease and improve their cardiac health.
Limit Women’s Risk Factors For Heart Disease
The traditional risk factors associated with heart disease for both men and women are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, however for women there are more significant risk factors to consider in the development of coronary artery disease. These are:
- Diabetes – Women have an increased risk of developing heart disease with this condition than men.
- Smoking – This is a greater risk factor for developing heart disease in women than it is in men.
- Inactivity – This is a major risk factor for developing cardiac health issues. Approximately 35% of females in Australia are not getting enough daily exercise, in comparison to 27% of men.
- Broken Heart Syndrome – also called stress cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a condition where stressful events can cause severe, but often temporary heart muscle failure.
- Stress and depression – Women’s hearts are affected by this more than men and mental well-being can impact on your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment plans.
- Some chemotherapy medication and radiation therapy for cancer treatment – such as those used in the treatment of breast cancer can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Menopause – Low levels of oestrogen increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels of the heart (coronary microvascular disease).
- Pregnancy complications – such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. This can increase the chances of having these conditions long-term, thus increasing the risk of developing heart disease.
Improve Women’s Cardiac Health Through Exercise
We all know that exercise plays an important role in staying fit and healthy but many of us may not realise just how significant exercise physiology is for women’s cardiac health. Consider the benefits of daily exercise. Getting physical activity into your daily routine can protect you from developing heart disease and helps control other risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high body mass index (BMI) and high blood pressure.
John Hopkins Medicine suggests the importance of both strength training and stretching/flexibility activities, in combination with aerobic exercise for maximum effect on cardiac health (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_heart/move_more/three-kinds-of-exercise-that-boost-heart-health).
Exercise For Beginners
It can often be challenging to take that first step but once you get started, it’s easier than you think and here are a few tips and tricks to help you begin on the road to optimum health:
- Start slowly, appropriate to your level of fitness and build it up gradually. Any exercise is better than none!
- Be active as much as possible, preferably each day. This can be as simple as doing jobs around the house that get your blood pumping and your muscles working.
- Do 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity physical activity each week. Dancing, brisk walking, washing windows or jogging and aerobics.
- Try to do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week. You could be lifting weights, push-ups and squats, even daily tasks such as gardening and carrying shopping counts.
- Do stretching/flexibility activities daily. Perhaps yoga or simple stretching before and after exercises. This will help to maintain a healthy musculoskeletal foundation for exercise and calm the mind, thus reducing stress.
There really are countless ways to achieve the recommended daily activity which fits in with your lifestyle. The aim is to do more and sit less!
Hire An Exercise Physiologist
It is also a good idea before you embark on that new fitness regime to seek advice from a cardiac health professional who will work with you to plan the appropriate course of action, tailored to your individual needs and fitness level. Get your current condition assessed by professionals and participate in cardiac exercise physiology treatments.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
We often hear that it is important for our health to maintain a healthy weight. But what is a healthy weight? Well, this is different for everyone, depending on different factors such as height and muscle/fat ratio.
Knowing your BMI is a good indicator of whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. It is simply measured using your height and weight.
Waist circumference can also be a useful tool to help assess whether you are a healthy weight. Women with a circumference of 35 inches or more are generally considered to be overweight.
Maintaining a healthy weight is a fundamental part of achieving optimum cardiac health by helping to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing diabetes, which are both health factors that influence the development of heart disease.
Nutrition Improves Heart Health
So how does eating a nutritious diet help improve cardiac health and what is classed as a healthy diet? Well, here is some information about important food groups. These few tips to get you started on your way to a heart healthy diet in no time:
- Watch your portion size. Overfilling your plate, especially with high-calorie, high-sodium foods can result in the daily intake of too many calories. This can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, all risk factors for developing heart disease. The recommended food group portion sizes may vary depending on the specific guidelines you are following.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables. Plant-based foods contain substances that may help reduce cardiovascular disease and are generally low in calories.
- Limit saturated and trans fats – unhealthy fats can increase blood cholesterol and increase your risk of coronary artery disease.
- Choose low-fat protein sources – Omega 3 rich fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring can lower blood fats.
- Eat less salt – To help lower blood pressure.
- Choose whole grains – To help regulate blood pressure and cardiac health.
- Create daily menus – To help you keep on track.
- And finally, give yourself a break – A little of what you fancy every now and then doesn’t hurt!
Speak With A Dietician
Sometimes simple changes are easier said than done. Get an achievable nutritional plan, tailored to your specific needs and lifestyle. Speak to a dietician who will work with you each step of the way to obtain and maintain a healthy weight.
If you keep these health tips in mind, you will lower your overall risk for cardiac disease. Share this article with your loved ones and remind them of the importance of cardiac health.
Contact Live Well Rehab and book an appointment with an exercise physiologist who will recommend the best treatment plan to ensure you remain in the best health condition.