Out of sight, out of mind rings true in just about every aspect of life, our health included! If we aren't suffering from aches and pains, it's difficult to keep focused on maintaining a healthy, happy body.
But with heart disease or strokes accounting for 1 in 3 deaths in women every year, we can’t afford not to pay attention, especially since Mary Ann Bauman, M.D. and Go Red For Women spokesperson, says about 80 percent of those fatalities may be prevented.
So how do we keep our hearts happily pumping? Bauman shares exactly what we need to start paying attention to and what puts us at greater risk. Bonus! We also got some delicious heart-healthy recipes from Chef Hamlet Garcia, another Go Red For Women spokesperson.
What your need to know about your body:
There are five critical health numbers the American Heart Association (AHA) believes are important for you to monitor starting at age 20. These include your total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol), blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index.
“These numbers are important because they allow you and your health care provider to determine your risk for developing cardiovascular disease,” Bauman said. “This includes conditions such as angina (chest pain), heart attack, stroke, caused by blood clots, and peripheral artery disease.”
Most of these are monitored during your regularly scheduled doctor visits, but if you’re at a higher risk, you’ll want to pay closer attention with more frequent visits.
Bauman also recommends telling your physician if you smoke, talking about your physical activity and discussing your dietary habits.
Good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol:
There are actually two types of cholesterol, LDL (bad) and HDL (good): while LDL is responsible for heart attacks or strokes, HDL can help prevent them.
“LDL cholesterol is considered ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible,” Bauman says. When the arteries are narrow and a clot forms, it could block it and cause a stroke or heart attack.
"HDL — good cholesterol — is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries,” Bauman says.
Which foods should you eat?
According to Bauman, a heart-healthy diet includes a variety of multigrain products, fish, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols — think walnuts and almonds. Stock up on foods like bran or oats, salmon, fruits and vegetables, and avocado or olive oil!
In addition to what you eat, there are certain foods Bauman suggests avoiding, such as animal products high in saturated fat (beef, lamb and cheese), fried foods, high-fat processed meats, simple sugars found in candy or soft drinks, saturated oils like palm oil, and partially hydrogenated margarine or lard.
Pregnancy puts you at greater risk
"Multiple pregnancies increases a woman’s risk of developing atrial fibrillation later in life,” Bauman says. This is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke or heart failure.
“For women with four or more pregnancies, the risk of developing AFib is approximately 30–50 percent higher compared to women without children,” Bauman added. She also notes that delivering a baby prematurely may predict a woman's risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
So what can you do?
The AHA recommends knowing “Life’s Simple 7" to maintain heart health. These tips are to get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, lose weight, reduce blood sugar and stop smoking.
If you’re looking to make some positive changes for a healthier heart, start the slideshow for delicious and practical recipes you need to try!
These smoky chicken bowls pack all major flavor and make great lunches on the go. Click here for the recipe!
Avocado toast is a trend that’s here to stay. We love this Italian Caprese version — and it’s good for you! Check it out here.
It’s pretty hard not to love guacamole on EVERYTHING. But deviled eggs? Yes please. See the recipe now!
Pizza night just got a heart-healthy twist and we couldn’t be happier. Get the ingredients here.