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10 Ways to Love Your Heart

Every February since 2003, millions of women and men have worn red to raise awareness among women about the risk of heart disease, which remains the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, and takes more women’s lives each year than all cancers combined.

Here are 10 tips for loving your heart:

  1. Evaluate your risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking and being overweight, are fairly easy to pinpoint, but others are harder to spot. For example, you may have high blood pressure even if you look and feel fine.
  2. See your doctor regularly if you have one or more risk factors for heart disease.
  3. Manage your blood sugar. Your body performs best when your blood sugar is kept relatively constant. Avoid eating foods that are high in sugar, which causes your blood sugar to spike, and snack regularly to avoid dips in your blood sugar, which can cause lethargy and increased hunger.
  4. Exercise. Get your heart pumping for 30 minutes or longer at least five times a week.
  5. Reduce belly fat, especially if your waist circumference is 35 inches or more for women, and 40” or more for men. Research shows that “belly” fat, which accumulates around organs such as the liver, is the most dangerous kind of fat for your heart. Regular exercise and soluble fiber help trim excess belly fat.
  6. Eat soluble fibers. Aim for 10 grams a day and look to foods such as unpeeled apples and pears, almonds, oatmeal, peas, and raspberries.
  7. Reduce stress by indulging in laughter, time with friends, yoga, meditation, or other calming, rejuvenating activities.
  8. Drink water. Eight glasses a day, every day.
  9. Avoid smoking. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease for smokers and for nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke.
  10. Treat depression. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Related Resource

Love Your Heart Flyer [PDF]

Heart Disease: Symptoms & Risks

Symptoms of Heart Disease

  • Chest pressure (squeezing or fullness of chest)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Radiating pain to the left arm/ jaw/upper back/neck
  • Pain in upper part of stomach
  • Nausea and sweating

Symptoms Unique to Women

  • Unusually tired
  • Pressure in middle of back, between shoulder blades, when walking uphill
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Sleep disturbance, indigestion, anxiety
  • Band-like pressure (commonly described as “bra feels too tight”)

Risk Factors for Men and Women

  • Family history of heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol and smoking
  • Obesity and diabetes

Risk Factors Unique to Women

  • Fertility drugs
  • Hormonal changes with menopause
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Chemotherapy treatments