Feeding A Hungry HeartSep 26, 2019
Heart-Healthy Nutrition for Women
Women: Be aware. There is a serial killer on the loose. It hides behind the myth that you believe, “It can’t happen to me.” It lurks beyond your lack of awareness or action on preventive measures. It stalks those who ignore warning signs and symptoms. One out of every three women will die from the serial killer of heart disease. It’s the number one killer of women in the United States – someone’s wife, someone’s mom, or someone’s daughter will be one in three.
But here’s some good news. Becoming educated and taking steps to manage stress, eating healthy and exercising can stop this killer in its tracks. Did you know that active women have a 50% risk reduction in developing heart disease? Now that’s some serious motivation to hit the gym or sidewalk.
What should a woman who is over 40 know about heart disease? Denise Perez, FNP, a nurse practitioner with Desert Care Network, says women should know their numbers. “Knowing Your Numbers” is a campaign by the American Heart Association to bring awareness of the five key numbers you should know:
- Total Cholesterol
- HDL (good) Cholesterol
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Sugar
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
Women should get their cholesterol and blood sugar checked annually. If you have high blood pressure, you should monitor it daily.
As of late 2017, there are new guidelines for blood pressure management:
- Normal: Less than 120/80
- Elevated: 120-129/80
- Stage 1 Hypertension: 130-139/80-89
- Stage 2 Hypertension: 140+/90
OK, so you know your numbers, now what? Perez is giving an informative seminar on September 20 at the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs to discuss how women can lower their risk of heart disease. She will focus on tips for healthy eating including dining out as well as ideas for stress reduction and guidelines for exercise.
Shopping and Dining Suggestions
First, she counsels against shopping on an empty stomach as it
can affect your otherwise good judgment to make healthy choices. “The majority of your grocery list should be fresh produce. Processed food is not the way to go. If you can’t get fresh, frozen is the next best,” said Perez.
What about parties? “You can go to enjoy the company, just step away from the chips, dips, crackers and cheese, but feel free to enjoy the veggies.”
For snacks, Perez recommends high-protein tide-overs like low-fat string cheese, low-fat yogurt or a handful of almonds or walnuts.
Dining out brings its own unique challenges. Perez tells her patients to not be afraid to ask a restaurant to make something with less salt or request that it be grilled instead of fried. She especially recommends women with high blood pressure follow a low-sodium diet. This includes skimping or skipping on the soy sauce when dining out at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant. Mexican food lovers – watch out for the fat and salt in the chips and the high fat in the cheese. “Look for things that say steamed, poached, or grilled as opposed to deep fried, pan fried, breaded or with creamy sauce,” said Perez. Another great idea for women who are trying to maintain their weight, which is especially important post menopause, is to split your meal when you dine out and always ask for dressings and condiments on the side.
Yes, You Can Exercise!
For women who don’t think they can find time for exercise, Perez said that it’s OK to do your exercise in increments. “Your goal should be 30 minutes of physical activity a day, but that does not need to be 30 minutes at once. It can give 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening,” she said. “When it comes to exercise, you don’t need to be aggressive or over the top, you just need to start slow and work your way up.” For people who already have heart disease and struggle with exercise, she counsels her cardiac patients to just do some movement for 10 minutes, three times a day.
“By exercising, you’re reducing your risk of heart disease, as exercise helps to control blood pressure and blood sugar and it reduces the risk of depression, anxiety and stress as you’re increasing your serotonin levels. Exercise also promotes weight loss and all of these things contribute to an overall feeling of health and well being,” said Perez.
She also recommends people set realistic goals and make a written activity guide. “When you come home, document every day what you did for exercise. If you see it on paper, it’s more of a reminder in black and white.”
Other ways to increase activity include parking your car a little further away to get in some more walking and taking the stairs in multi-story building instead of the elevator.
Stress Management Also a Role in Heart-Healthy Living
In addition to exercise, here are a few other ideas for reducing stress:
- Practice deep-breathing exercises
- Take time for yourself
- Limit caffeine
- Get at least seven to nine hours of sleep
- Become more organized
- Volunteer – church, school, library
- Avoid unhealthy habits like excessive drinking
Women Present Differently with Heart Attacks
The female mystique follows women into heart disease. Women tend to have heart disease 10 years later than men and their symptoms of a heart attack present differently as well. Instead of the more severe chest pain like men, women experience more flu-like symptoms during a heart attack –fatigue, nausea, dizziness and pain in the lower chest or upper abs.
Mind Your Meds
For women on medication, Perez reminds them that medications don’t get a holiday. “Select a system that works for you. There are many pill packages out there that help with compliance. You can also download apps that remind you to take your medicine or set your phone alarm. And take your prescription medications at the same time every day. Once you’ve done that for 21 days, it’s a habit,” she said. Perez also advises that you keep a list of medications you take in your purse and on your refrigerator.