Three-Quarters of Women Can Reduce Their Heart Disease Risk Through Lifestyle Changes
An important new study has concluded that nearly three-quarters of all women can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease by making simple lifestyle changes. On one hand this is remarkable. On the other, it’s what I’ve been saying for years: You have the power to modify your risk for disease and to improve your health.
Heart disease is our number one killer. Cancer is a distant second. Perhaps we fear cancer more, because it seems like something no one has any control over. It appears to strike without warning, afflicting young and old alike, threatening rapid decline and eventual death.
Perhaps we focus less on heart disease because it seems so inevitable. If one lives long enough, one’s heart and/or blood vessels will simply give out. Or so it seems. But that’s misguided thinking. For one thing, heart disease is NOT inevitable. Certainly not among otherwise young, healthy women. Yet more and more women are succumbing to heart disease at an earlier age than ever before. For these women—and men—heart disease risk is very much related to a handful of factors that an individual CAN control. The list should sound familiar to readers of my columns: stop smoking; eat a healthier diet featuring plenty of plant foods; cut down on red and processed meat; maintain a healthy body weight; take steps to control stress; avoid excess alcohol consumption; avoid toxins whenever possible; keep your blood pressure within a normal range; avoid added sugars as much as possible. And get up and move. Sitting is a newly identified independent risk factor for heart disease.
Adhering to these healthy habits can drastically reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack. Investigators estimate that nearly three-quarters of all women could avoid heart disease simply by adopting these healthy behaviors. So, clearly, heart disease is not inevitable. All it takes is a little effort. By the way, women who consumed one unit of alcohol per day, in addition to engaging in the above behaviors, enjoyed the most protection of all. I recommend enjoying a glass of red wine, as this is the traditional drink associated with the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Enjoy!