Women and Heart Disease
All month I have been posting heart healthy factoids since February is Heart Month. However, I feel I need to devote a whole post to a very important topic. Women and heart disease. Did you know heart disease is the number one killer of women? Most women fear breast cancer. They routinely get their mammograms and do self checks each month. But what about your heart? Most women, especially younger women, think heart disease is something you don’t have to think about till you are at least 70. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I have worked in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years. During that time, there has been an increase of younger people having coronary artery bypass grafting(CABG), heart attacks, and stenting. The youngest patient I ever had was in her late 20s. It was scary that she was actually younger than me! I’ve also had patients who were very fit and watched what they ate. Unfortunately, they picked the wrong parents to hand down their genetic make up.
Physical activity is something that is linked to all the controllable risk factors of heart disease(diabetes, overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, etc.). If you are already active, great! Keep it up! Don’t let the daily “to do” list get in the way. Make time for exercise by scheduling it in like you would a doctor’s appointment.
So what exact exercises should you be doing for your heart? First up: Cardio.
You should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. An easy way to remember: 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Moderate exercise can be defined as something that gets your pulse and breathing rates up. If you can sing while exercising, it’s too light! A brisk walk is considered moderate. Vigorous exercise is more like running or singles tennis. You should be able to only speak in phases.
Here’s a great walking workout that can be done on the treadmill. Modify the speed/incline to meet your needs. You could easily adapt this for running by increasing the speed. Click here, here, and here for some more treadmill ideas.
Next on the heart healthy agenda? Strength training.
You should be hitting the weights (or using your own body weight in moves) at least 2-3 times per week. Strength training increases muscular strength, endurance, independence, and ability to perform a large range of activities. It reduces disability and enhances quality of life. Other benefits include increase in bone mineral density and lean body mass. A well rounded program should involve the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body: chest press, shoulder press, triceps extension, bicep curl, lat pull-down, lower-back extension, abdominal crunch/curl, quad extension, leg press, leg curl, and calf raise. Aim for 12-15 repetitions, 2-3 sets of each exercise. Click here, here, here, and here for some workout ideas.
Heart disease is scary but with the proper nutrition and exercise throughout your life, you can find the key on how to love your heart and have it love you right back.
Be sure to check out Breathe Magazine for my full post!
What are YOU doing to protect your heart?