Despite an increase in awareness campaigns, only about half of women recognize that heart disease is their number one killer. According to the most recent data from the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 299,578 women in 2017—or about 1 in every 5 female deaths.
Women’s symptoms are often less severe than men’s, so they may be more likely to ignore warning signs such as an ache in the jaw or feeling more out of breath than normal. But there are lifestyle changes women can make now to reduce heart attack risk.
- Vitamin C – Several studies have found that low levels of vitamin C can cause increased blood pressure and atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Although that doesn’t mean vitamin C can cure those conditions, it does mean that women should try to get enough vitamin C in their diets.
- Diet – Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet – rich in fish, nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables – can dramatically lower your C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation in the arteries around the heart). A small amount of dark chocolate every week can also lower your C-rp.
- Floss – A little known fact is that chronic gum disease leads to inflammation and increases heart disease risk. Make sure you’re flossing after meals and at bedtime. Good dental care has been shown to reduce risk of heart attack.
- Spices – For thousands of years, Chinese and Indian medicine has used ginger and turmeric as anti-inflammatory agents. Animal studies have shown these spices have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
- Hormones – If you’re taking birth control and have a high C-rp level, you should talk to your doctor and consider stopping. Research has shown that the hormones in birth control play a large role in raising the C-rp levels in your body. If you’ve already experienced menopause, oral hormones can cause the same problem. Ask your doctor about a hormone patch, which doesn’t have the same effect.
- Reduce Stress – Life is busy, and it can be hard to find the time to relax. But reducing stress is crucial for maintaining heart health. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Consider relaxation strategies such as yoga and deep breathing. Even just going for a walk with a friend can sooth your heart and your soul.