Did you know that every 60 seconds a wife, mother, sister, grandmother, daughter, or friend dies from a stroke, heart attack, or other form of heart disease? Heart disease is the number one killer of women. So, what can you do about it?
As February is Heart Health Month, let’s review what the current guidelines are for women to reduce their risk of heart disease.
- Don’t smoke
- Get regular physical activity. It’s recommended to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise each week.
- Consume a healthy diet. A mostly plant-based diet, one that focuses on organic fruits and vegetables, whole/unprocessed grains, beans (all high-fiber foods), as well as Omega-3s and calcium, and reduces or eliminates sugar, processed grains, trans fats, saturated fat, and sodium, is the best for a healthy heart.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. No, we’re not recommending you diet your way down to your pre-puberty weight. Rather than live by the number on the scale, measure your waist and aim for less than 30 inches.
- Maintain a healthy Blood Pressure. A reading of less than 120/80 is considered normal. Anything higher and it’s time to take action.
- Watch your lipid panel. Total cholesterol <200; LDL (bad) <100; HDL (good) >50; Triglycerides <150. If you have elevated numbers or a family history of heart disease, you should ask you doctor to run an NMR test, which can take a closer look at your LDL and HDL particle size, number, and density, which gives us a better picture of the type of particles you make. For example, are your LDL particles mostly large and fluffy (safe) or small and sticky (dangerous).
- Know your hs-crp This is a blood test that tells the level of inflammation in your body. A reading of <1.0 is ideal.
- Achieve good blood sugar control. It’s not only important to have a fasting blood sugar measured, but a better test is the Hemoglobin A1C, which measures long-term blood sugar control. A reading of 4-6% is ideal.
Healthy Eating Guidelines
- Organic vegetables: at least 4-5 cups/day
- Organic fruit: 1-3 servings a day, primarily berries (lowest sugar options)
- Fish (Omega-3 rich wild Alaskan salmon, black cod/sablefish, barramundi, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout, tuna): at least 2 servings/week (1 serving = 6 oz.)
- Fiber: at least 30 grams/day
- Whole grains and starchy vegetables: This is a controversial category depending on who you ask. Best sources would be sweet potato, butternut squash, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and millet (as these three latter grains are actually seeds, so they’re higher in protein and fiber and lower in carbohydrate). Aim for 1-3 servings per day
- Sugar: This is now public enemy #1. Limit your total sugar intake as low as possible, ideally <20 grams/day
- Nuts: at least 4 servings/week (1 serving = 1/4 cup nuts, preferably raw, unsalted)
- Trans fat: 0 grams
- Sodium: less than 1500 mg/day (note: if you are an endurance athlete or workout for more than 90 minutes a day, you should consume more sodium to replace that which is lost in sweat)
- Alcohol: less than 1 drink/day (1 drink = 5 oz. wine, 12 oz. beer, 1 oz. hard alcohol)