4 Ways to Prevent Heart Attack - Mayo Clinic
How To Prevent Heart Disease
Get smart about your heart
Did you know that more than 41 million women in America have heart disease? And that more women than men will die from it? In fact, it's the number one killer of women (not cancer—a common myth). But it's also preventable. Here's what you need to know.
Know your risk
Pull out your most recent test results, call your doctor to get them, or make an appointment for testing if you haven't been checked in the past year. But don't stop there. "Know your waist size, blood sugar, and pregnancy history too," says Lori Mosca, MD, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
It's a step heart disease survivor and spokeswoman for the national Go Red For Women campaign Mary Leah Coco, 32, took—and it saved her life. "Heart disease is more than just a heart attack," she says. "It's not just needing open-heart surgery to clear a blocked artery; it can be so much more."
See the signs
Symptoms of heart attack in women are different than they are in men. In fact, 43% of women having a coronary don't experience any chest pain at all. What do they experience? Extreme fatigue. "In the days or even weeks before a heart attack, more than 70% of women experience debilitating, flu-like exhaustion," says Marianne Legato, MD, director of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and a Prevention advisory board member. "You may suddenly feel too tired to cook dinner or lift your laptop."
Other signs to watch out for: mild pain in the breastbone, upper back, shoulders, neck, or jaw, as well as profuse sweating, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, sleeplessness and anxiety. If you do experience any—or all—of these signs, immediately call 911. Your odds of surviving a heart attack improve by 23% if you get treatment within three hours and 50% if it's within one hour.
Lower your blood pressure
Although it causes no symptoms, high blood pressure boosts the risks of heart attack and stroke, as well as aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. Even worse? Twenty-eight percent of Americans have high blood pressure and don't know it, according to the American Heart Association.
Fortunately, most people can bring down their blood pressure naturally without medication. Doing things like meditation and yoga, switching to decaf tea and indulging in dark chocolate can naturally lower blood pressure. (For a full list of ideas, see 13 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure.)
Detox your diet
Don't worry: You can pamper your heart without feeling deprived. What you should avoid? "Lots of sugar, sodium, and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats," says Dr. Mosca. (For heart-healthy foods, see 25 Best Foods For Your Heart.)
Dining out? Download Restaurant Nutrition, a free app for iPhone and Android phones that updates key nutrition facts for more than 100 restaurant chains—and even shows you where the closest one is.
Celebrate Meatless Mondays
Research from the University of Oxford reveals that vegetarian diets reduce our risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease by nearly one-third. In fact, the research shows that non-meat eaters are not only significantly less likely to develop heart disease, but they're also less likely to get cancer and food-borne illness. "Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure," says lead study author Francesca Crowe, PhD, of the University of Oxford, in a statement. "[This] shows the important role of diet in preventing heart disease."
Not quite ready to give up the occasional hamburger? Consider eliminating meat from your diet whenever you can. And now's the time to join Prevention.com editors in our Meatless Monday campaign!
For that time between meals, do like Dr. Mosca does: Pack your own snack-attack rescue kit to avoid relying on vending machines and drive-thrus.
At night or in the morning, pack a zip-lock bag of cut-up veggies, a low-fat cheese stick, a piece of fruit, or even some air-popped popcorn and tuck it in your purse or briefcase.
At the office, stash a jar of peanut or almond butter in a desk drawer to use as a dip for carrots or apple slices (stick to 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 2 tablespoons of nut butter). Or keep hummus in the office fridge as a dip for pepper strips, baby carrots, and broccoli florets—available cut up in the produce section.
We know: You think you don't have time for exercise. And you're not alone. In a recent national survey of 2,300 women, one in three women told Dr. Mosca she was too busy to take care of her heart health. But if you have time for a 10-minute coffee break, you have time for this. "The better your exercise plan fits into your real life, the better you'll stick with it," Dr. Mosca says. "A plan that works for you, even if it's 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, is a sign of success." It's true. Three 10-minute walks reduced blood pressure more than a continuous half-hour stroll and kept it lower a full nine hours longer in a 2012 study from Arizona State University.
Have a girls' night
Learning to take it easy is just as important as diet and exercise. But between wildly busy days and nonstop nights, few women know how. "So many of us have this problem," Dr. Mosca says. "The important thing is to have a plan in place so that you don't dive into a bag of potato chips when the going gets tough."
Enter: girlfriends. Get a mani/pedi, schedule spa treatments together, or just grab a cup of coffee at the nearest café. After all, friends are good medicine, according to a University of California, San Diego study that found women with bigger, more supportive social networks were less likely to be overweight, smoke, or have high blood sugar or high blood pressure.
Soak away stress
You know all about the dangers of stress—it can trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which can damage our brains and weaken our cardiovascular and immune systems over time—but did you know it can also increase your chance of heart disease? "Stress boosts your risk of depression and alcohol abuse, both of which up your risk of heart disease," says Dr. Mosca.
So how can you stay calm? "Use the time to get off the treadmill of daily life in whatever way works for you—exercise, a hot bath, time with a friend or your spouse, solitude. Change it up so you don't get bored." (Get the best essential oils for a blissful, tension-taming bath.)
If you do just one thing: Find a motivational motto. When the going gets rocky, tell yourself what Dr. Mosca's father used to tell her: "When it's too tough for everyone else, it's just right for me." That saying helps her cope with self-doubt and overbooked days. For ideas to create your own collection of inspiring mottoes, check out the Daily Motivator at greatday.com.
Video: #TomorrowsDiscoveries: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease – Erin Michos, M.D.
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