Heart Health

Did you know that heart disease is the #1 KILLER of women??

According to the CDC:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 292,188 women in 2009—that’s 1 in every 4 female deaths.
  • Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.
  • About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of black women, and 5.6% of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.

We want to make sure our FITfollowers are not a part of these scary statistics so we are here to help you prevent heart disease!!

First of all, it is important to know the risk factors. Again, according to the CDC these include:

High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking (49% of Americans have at least one of these three risk factors), diabetes, being overweight or obese, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

Ok, so beyond just a clean diet, are there foods that are shown to help with your overall heart health? Of course! We encourage you to peruse this wonderful compilation of heart healthy foods from Health Magazine, but here are a few highlights:

1. Fish Oils, Fish Oils, Fish Oils: Good for your skin, good for you heart. Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as dietary supplements.

2. Berries: According to one recent study, women aged 25 through 42 who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack compared with those who ate less. The authors of the study attributed the benefit to compounds known as anthocyanins, flavonoids (which are antioxidants) that may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Anthocyanins give plants their red and blue colors.

3. DARK CHOCOLATE: We are sure this is one food group you can get behind. Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, including one in 2012 that found that daily chocolate consumption could reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, andinflammation. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars don’t make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.

4. Extra-virgin olive oil: In a landmark study, people at high risk for heart disease who followed the Mediterranean diet (high in grains, fruits, vegetables) supplemented by nuts and at least four tablespoons a day of olive oil reduced their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dying by 30%. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Olives themselves—both green and black—are another source of “good” fat, says Graf. And they “add a lot of flavor to salads,” she notes.

The other component to heart health is exercise! So whether it is weight training, cardio (walking, running, swimming, or cycling…as long as you push yourself to the point of panting/slightly out of breath), a circuit training class, or yoga, exercise is good for the heart. Schedule a session with the FITgals today or check out this great treadmill workout/CORE class from POPSUGAR! 

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