Heart disease. Many people think of it as a man's disease, but women can get it too. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States -- making heart health an important issue for women of all ages.
The most common cause of heart disease is coronary artery disease, or CAD, a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Luckily, the steps you can take to help prevent CAD are effective against other causes of heart disease as well.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy meals and snack options can help you avoid heart disease. Be sure to eat plenty of fish, poultry, and fresh fruits -- and don't forget the veggies!
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can help you determine whether your weight is in a healthy range.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease and other major illnesses. If you smoke, quit!
- Limit alcohol use. Alcohol causes high blood pressure. If you drink, drink responsibly and in moderation.
- If you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, you can take additional steps to lower your risk for heart disease.
- Have your cholesterol checked. Your doctor should test your cholesterol levels at least once a year.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms so be sure to have it checked regularly.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
- Take your medication. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, it's important to follow your doctor's instructions and remember to take your medications regularly. Always ask questions if you don't understand something.
- Talk with your doctor. You and your doctor can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease. Regularly discuss your treatment plan and don't forget to bring a list of questions to your doctor's appointments.