Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. and eating right plays a major role in keeping it at bay. Liz Krieger, in this post from Bazaar, gives the lowdown on how to prevent heart disease and the do’s and don’ts of a heart-healthy diet:
When many women think of something that could seriously threaten their health, the bogeyman often starts with a “C”: cancer. But if you’re going to fear anything, it should be heart disease, the leading cause of death for women each year, more than all cancers combined. Heart disease claims more than 400,000 lives annually—that’s nearly one death each minute. Yet almost half of all women remain unaware of these facts, according to the Women’s Heart Alliance’s new Fight the Ladykiller campaign.
Here’s the good news: “It’s something that’s largely preventable,” says cardiologist Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The most effective ways to prevent heart disease? Quit smoking, get regular exercise, and adopt a heart-healthy diet, which can help you avoid a cascade of problems, says Deborah Krivitsky, a dietitian at Mass General Hospital’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center in Boston. “Eating properly can lower blood pressure, body weight, and cholesterol and lower your risk of diabetes—all risk factors for heart disease.”
EAT MORE …
Fatty Fish: Cold-water fish like salmon, herring, and trout are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, says Krivitsky. Aim for at least two servings a week.
Nuts: A 2010 study suggests that about 2.5 ounces of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias, or pistachios each day have the power to lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Legumes: Just one serving a day of beans, dried peas, lentils, or chickpeas—about three quarters of a cup tossed in a salad—may reduce your bad cholesterol level by as much as 5 percent.
Tomatoes: This fruit contains the antioxidant lycopene, which may help lower your risk of stroke as well as reduce inflammation. Fill your cart with fruits and veggies, and eat five to seven servings a day.
Oats: Researchers have also discovered that compounds called avenanthramides (AVEs), found only in oats, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Processed Food: Steer clear of white bread and other refined carbs; they’re often high in added sugar.
Red Meat: Studies have shown that people who eat beef, pork, and/or lamb three times a week have a higher cardiac risk, says Krivitsky, which may be due in part to L-carnitine, a compound in meat that has been linked to brittle arteries. Eat red meat only once a week.
Egg Yolks: Watch out for the high cholesterol content, advises Krivitsky. Ideally you should limit your intake to 200 milligrams a day (one large yolk contains 250 milligrams).
Salt: Cutting back on sodium is a key component of lowering blood pressure. Aim to restrict your intake to 1,500 milligrams or fewer a day, and rest assured, your taste buds will adjust.
WOMEN’S HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS
According to the American Heart Association, we don’t always have the same symptoms as men (e.g., chest pain that radiates down one arm). Seek medical attention if you experience unexplained or unusual:
1. Pain or pressure in the center of your chest
2. Pain in your jaw, back, or stomach, or one or both arms
3. Nausea or shortness of breath
4. Breaking out in a cold sweat
5. Extreme fatigue