Women's health: Reduce your risk of heart disease

(Image courtesy of Thinkstock)

(Image courtesy of Thinkstock)

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 25, claiming half a million lives each year. One in 2.5 women will die from cardiovascular disease or stroke as compared to one in 30 from breast cancer. Approximately 64% of women who died suddenly from heart attack had no prior symptoms.

The following are things that both men and women can do to promote heart health:

1. Check your blood pressure regularly. High blood pressure is referred to as the "silent killer" because more often than not there are no symptoms. You don't have to visit the doctor's office since most major drug stores have an automatic blood pressure machine in the pharmacy department.

2. Exercise regularly. Exercise, including walking, strengthens the heart muscle, improves circulation and oxygenation of the cells, reduces stress and promotes restful sleep. Exercise between 30 to 60 minutes at least five days a week, working according to your current level of health and fitness. Remember to make it something that you enjoy!

3. Measure your waist. Aim for a waistline that is under 35 inches. Excess abdominal weight is directly linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

4. Find out your BMI or body mass index. While reducing excess body weight has tremendous health benefits, the number on the scale does not tell the whole story. Having sufficient lean muscle mass according to your age, sex, height and weight is necessary for optimal health.

*www.bmi-calculator.net is one of many sites you can use to calculate your BMI

5. Check your cholesterol. Knowing your cholesterol number is important, however, 50% of heart attacks occur in women with "normal" cholesterol. It is not enough to know your total number, it is most important to know the ratio:

**Total cholesterol number divided by your HDL number - the total should be 4 or less.

6. Omega-3 supplement. Omega 3 fats improve the function of every cell in the body, allowing nutrients to pass into and out of cells. They also keep the cell walls pliable, allowing them to respond to changes in blood pressure with greater ease. Omega 3's are not produced by the body and must be obtained through food and supplements.

- Flaxseeds are the richest plant based source of omega 3 fatty acids, containing twice the amount found in fish oil. Organic, unrefined flax oil provides the highest quality product. For those who cannot easily digest oils, flax meal is a great alternative. Flax meal is simply flaxseeds that are ground into an almost powder like consistency and has a nutty flavor. It is suitable for baking, such as muffins or as a topping for salads, yogurt, cereal or any food of your choosing.

- Fish oil is the more widely used supplement. To ensure safety, choose a fish oil that is molecularly distilled. This process removes toxins, metals and PCB's to a level that is safe for human consumption. Better still, select a company that uses food grade ethanol in its distillation process. This removes the greatest amount of residue and provides the purest fish oil available. A reputable company will provide information about their product(s) including their distillation process via website or consumer information call center. Avoid purchasing any product which does not provide contact information provided on the packaging.

Other omega supplements including Chia, Hemp Seed and Krill oil.

**THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS ... THEY ONLY WORK IF THE DIET IS LOW IN SATURATED FAT.

Certain omega supplements are contraindicated for specific health conditions and/or may interact with medications. To ensure that you are consuming a product that is safe and appropriate to your specific needs, always consult a healthcare practitioner before adding any supplement to your diet.

7. Reduce Sodium Intake. Where salt goes, water flows and this is a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease. Reduce your consumption of high salt foods. Celtic Sea Salt is a healthy alternative to table salt, containing less sodium and rich in essential minerals.

8. Reduce Saturated Fats. Organic, free range, grass fed beef contains less saturated fat, more Omega-3 fats and a higher amount of protein. Organic meats are free of hormones and antibiotics and because they feed on grass rather than corn, they are also free of GMO's. Reducing your overall consumption of saturated fats such as meats and fried foods will provide numerous health benefits.

9. Low Glycemic Carbohydrates. Regular consumption of carbs that have a high glycemic index and/or glycemic load causes dramatic spikes and drops in blood sugar. Subjecting the body to these rapid and extreme spikes may over time contribute to cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance.

10. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables supply the body with a wide variety of nutrients, antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Organic produce is said to contain even greater amounts of nutrients than their conventional counterparts and are also free of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Take care of YOU. Women play many roles: mother, wife, homemaker, business woman, student, community volunteer, and very often assume several of these roles simultaneously. Women are also notorious for placing the needs of others before their own. While there are times other's needs are great, the best way to care for another is to put yourself first. PUT YOURSELF FIRST.

Make time each day to exercise, eat healthfully, and decompress and de-stress in whatever way best works for you.a bubble bath, a good book, lunch with a friend or a creative endeavor that feeds your soul. It is important for everyone, not just women, to make time for self-care in order to maintain physical and emotional health. For those who are caregivers to someone whose needs are great such as a newborn, an aging parent or an ill spouse or friend, self-care becomes even more critical. Find a good support system of people who will not only help you to make time for yourself, but encourage you to do it!

***The above is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any condition and should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional care. If you have any underlying health condition or any symptoms occur, consult your physician or emergency care.

For more information on specific nutrients, herbs and supplements for heart health and understanding glycemic load versus glycemic index, visit www.mbhealing.net.