Don’t save that red dress for Valentine’s day. Flaunt that color today, National Wear Red Day to help raise awareness about women’s heart health as part of the National Heart Health initiative by the American Heart Association this month.
You may not realize it, but heart disease is not just a problem for men. Take a look at this graphic below, courtesy of the American Heart Association:
High cholesterol, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity are all contributors that increase your risk for heart health problems, in both men and women. But what makes women susceptible than men?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk factors for heart disease vary from men on these points:
- Metabolic syndrome — a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides — has a greater impact on women than on men.
- Mental stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment, so talk to your doctor if you’re having symptoms of depression.
- Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.
- Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (small vessel heart disease).
Latinas are at an even greater risk for heart disease than their white counterparts. Higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and inactivity within the Latino community increase the likelihood of poor heart health and may lead to disease.
The American Heart Association shared these facts with me:
Facts You Didn’t Know About Latinas and Heart Disease
o Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
o Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
o Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.
o Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.
o Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to heart health.
It is absolutely crucial that you take your heart health seriously, now more than ever. Wearing red today is one way to raise awareness in your community, but how can you take a step towards reducing your risk of heart disease?
There are 6 major risk factors for heart disease that you can modify or control: Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes. Making healthier lifestyle choices will have loads of benefits for your health, especially for your heart.
Here are some tips to get you started towards good heart health:
– Get moving! Remember, your heart is a muscle and the more you move your body, the stronger your heart will get over time. People who maintain an active lifestyle have a 45% lower risk of developing heart disease than do sedentary people. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise at least 5 days a week. Take a dance class. Go for a hike. Join your friends on a bike ride. Make it fun to keep yourself motivated and consistent.
– Heart-healthy eats. Key words to keep in mind: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low cholesterol and low fat foods.
- Balance your diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to benefit from the vitamins and minerals that contribute to good heart health. Stick to whole fresh produce as much as possible and be sure to avoid fruits or vegetables that are canned with high sodium or high sugar syrups.
- Recent studies show that 39% of people ages 18 and under, and 42% of adults don’t eat whole grains at all . Eating foods high in dietary fiber, such as whole grain products, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and will also help maintain your weight. Skip the bagels and breakfast pastries for breakfast and try oatmeal or whole wheat bread instead.
- Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol are almost guaranteed to raise your blood cholesterol and your risk for coronary artery disease and heart attack. Your body needs fat, in addition to carbs and protein, for energy so don’t skip it altogether. Choose heart-healthy fats (aka MUFAs or monounsaturated fats if you want to get technical) such as extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. Be sure to keep this in moderation folks.
– Kick the smoking habit. According to the AHA, cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing blood pressure, making it harder for you to tolerate regular exercise, and making it more likely for blood to clot. Smoking also decreases the levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein) in your blood, otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol that may lower your risk for heart disease. There are many many good reasons to quit smoking, but the impact it has on heart health tops the list.
Wear red and talk to your friends, your neighbors, mothers and daughters, coworkers and social network: spread the word about the importance of heart health, not just today, but everyday. Set the example and pay it forward.
Here I am, showing off my red. Even my cell phone gets in on the action.
Are you wearing red today?
How are you celebrating Heart Health month?