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Your 20's and 30's are a prime time to make sure you are focusing on your health. And heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths in women in the United States. Each year, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke. And 80% of cardiac events can be prevented!
With the right information on how to keep your heart healthy, we can really lower that number. That is why we decided to partner up with Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease (and stroke) in women. Here are are some tips on ensuring a healthy heart.
1. Take a Genuine Interest in Your Health
First things first, you have to take an interest in your overall health. I know this seems like common sense, but if you don;t make your health a priority, you will not get anywhere. Make a point to dedicate just a little time each day to think about your health.
Ask yourself if there is anything you can do to or have done that day to ensure a healthy lifestyle. And if the answer is no, see the tips below for some ideas on what you can do to hit that daily quota.
2. Put Some Pep in Your Step
To improve overall cardiovascular health, the AHA suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). If that sounds like a lot think 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. And this can be anything from walking, aerobics, running, swimming, dancing, you name it. Anything that gets the heart pumping.
If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol they suggest 40 minutes of moderate exercise a day to help lower those numbers. Walking is a very understated exercise BTW. It's easy and costs nothing outside of a good pair of walking shoes. And the best part is that it burns a ton of fat. I love walking and make sure I do a nice walk at least a couple times a week.
3. Know Your Numbers
Do you know your cholesterol numbers? How about your blood pressure? Glucose levels? It is so important to know your numbers. If you are healthy it is a nice peace of mind. If your numbers are higher, you now know that you have some work to do to help lower them. Either way, you'd be working towards living with a healthier heart in the long run regardless of where you start.
Cholesterol is an important one in regards to your heart health. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from two sources: your body and food. Excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. (Source) There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. Too much of one type — or not enough of another — can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. (Source) LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. (Source) HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. (Source) You can take a cholesterol quiz here.
Triglycerides are another important one in regards to your heart health. Triglycerides are another type of fat, and they’re used to store excess energy from your diet. High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with atherosclerosis. Elevated triglycerides can be caused by overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates (more than 60 percent of total calories). (Source)
The American Heart Association recommends all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol, and other traditional risk factors checked every four to six years. (Source) Your total cholesterol score is calculated using the following equation: HDL + LDL + 20 percent of your triglyceride level. (Source)
Making healthy eating choices and increasing exercise are important first steps in improving your cholesterol. For some people, cholesterol-lowering medication may also be needed to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. (Source)
So first things first, set up an appointment with your doctor to get your numbers checked. You should be able to get cholesterol checked and talk to your doctor about your numbers. The sooner you know, the sooner you can get to work.
4. Eat Consciously
This one is tough. If you are a mindless snacker when watching TV or prone to stress eating then this will be something to really take into consideration. Be mindful when you eat. That means being aware of what you decide to eat, and how quickly you eat it. Being mindful of the things you eat is a big one when it comes to monitoring your cholesterol. If you are wondering what your cholesterol has to do with your heart, here are a few tidbits.
Remember that you are eating for energy, not pleasure. Well sometimes for pleasure but in moderation. Food addiction is real, so if you are on a path to making sure you are eating whole foods that are good for you and limiting the carbs and sweets and making a conscious decision to eat everything. Spend a day writing a food journal. You may be surprised at what you are actually eating on a daily basis when you keep track.
5. Get Regular Check-Ups
This goes into the part about knowing your numbers, but it is pretty important to get check ups regularly, even after you learn your numbers. If you do not feel well, it is good to go to the doctor. If you have a persistent issue, the safe route is to go to the doctor. On top of annual physicals and women's wellness exams, it's important to make sure you are staying active and eating well. It's best to catch any issues you may be facing early. So even if you do not like the doctor, it is so necessary to stay on top of your checkups!
6. Rally Your Squad
When trying to live a more healthy lifestyle, it is so important to have a squad who has your back! Grab some friends to walk with you, join a cross fit team or just go to a few fitness classes. Another option is to go through Go Red For Women’s #GoRedGetFit online fitness challenge on their Facebook group where women have, women have free access to two nationally renowned celebrity fitness trainers: Scott Parker and Lisa Morales to help members to be fit and healthy for life.
Friends that do fitness challenges together, stay healthy together! A barrier to being fit and healthy is simply not having the guidance and support. So grab your workout buddies and get them to do the #GoRedGetFit online challenge! What is the challenge you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked.
7. Get Competitive
Go Red For Women has an engaging new initiative to keep healthy living interesting and fresh, and Macy's is joining the cause to cheer participants on and keep them motivated with exciting prizes, like the chance to win a $1,000, $500, or $250 Macy's gift card! The #GoRedGetFit is a quarterly health and fitness challenge that combines nationally-known and influential celebrity fitness trainers with the power, influence, and encouragement of real women like YOU! If you are wondering what is needed to participate just follow the steps below.
- Take 10,000 steps a day.
- Know your numbers; get your cholesterol checked and talk to your doctor about your numbers.
- It didn’t happen if you didn’t post it! Participants share and post messages, photos and videos of successes, encouragement and struggles within the group and some are randomly chosen to win prizes from Go Red For Women and Macy’s with a grand prize to the 2018 Red Dress Collection in New York City in February.
- Practice makes per-fit! Each challenge lasts approximately 12-weeks, in an effort to turn a behavior into a habit.
For more information, visit GoRedForWomen.org.
That's it! The steps to having a healthy heart are pretty simple. But follow through will be tough! So jump on board the challenge to get the support you need!