Did you know heart disease is often more debilitating and deadly in women than in men? It’s the leading cause of death in women over 65. To put this in perspective, heart attacks kill six times as many women each year as breast cancer.
Salima Qamruddin, MD with Ochsner Baptist, shares five tips to help keep your female heart healthy.
1. Know (and modify) your risk. Some heart disease risk factors can’t be changed. These include age and family history. Other risk factors can be modified with lifestyle changes or medication. These include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking and diabetes. High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can also increase your risk.
2. Get screened. Talk to your primary care physician about your heart health. Key screenings for monitoring heart health include blood pressure tests, blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) tests and a fasting lipoprotein profile to test cholesterol. These diagnostic tests can help determine your long-term risk and identify possible lifestyle changes to reduce your future risk of developing heart disease.
3. Keep moving. Exercising regularly is key to keeping your heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends a weekly exercise goal of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. The easy version: aim to exercise 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Wearable tracking devices that log your progress (or vibrate when you’ve been sitting too long) can help keep you on track. Joining a group exercise class can also help motivate you.
4. Eat right. Make smart choices about the types of foods you eat. Instead of sugary snacks, reach for fruits, vegetables, poultry, whole grains and dairy. Avoid sauces and dressings, which can be full of hidden sugars and calories.
5. Understand the role menopause plays. Studies show a woman’s risk of a heart attack increases about 10 years after menopause. It’s thought a decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor. Let’s be clear: menopause does not cause cardiovascular disease. However, there may be an increase in risk factors for heart disease around the time of menopause — another reason it’s so important to get screened at regular intervals.
Dr. Qamruddin says, “It’s so important for women to be proactive about their heart health. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care doctor or cardiologist.”
Dr. Qamruddin completed medical school at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan, followed by residency at Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, NY. She completed a year of Ochocardiopathy prior to Cardiovascular Disease fellowship at the University of Southern California. She trained another year of Advanced Echocardiography at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, OH. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.