Here are some scary numbers: Heart disease caused the deaths of 9,780 women in this country in 2011; 90% of Australian women have at lease one risk factor; and 50% have two or more risk factors for heart disease.
The biggest killer of women is not ovarian cancer, it’s not breast cancer, it’s heart disease, and it is Australia’s single biggest cause of death in both women and men.
Now for the good news! 90% of your risk for heart disease is “modifiable”, that is, these risk factors are under your control.
You can’t control your age, or any genetic predispositions you might have, but the majority of heart disease risk factors are things you can do something about:
Smoking and being exposed to second hand smoke
Smoking increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease – not to mention lung diseases and a host of cancers. 2-5 years after quitting, your risk of heart attack and stroke drops significantly.
High total blood cholesterol
A healthy total cholesterol level for most adults is below 4.0 mmol/L. Often people with high cholesterol levels show no symptoms, so have your levels checked regularly – even if you have a healthy diet, weight and level of activity.
High blood pressure
Normal blood pressure is usually less than 120/80 mmHg. Have yours checked regularly, and discuss your individual blood pressure target with a doctor. This is especially important if you have diabetes or high cholesterol.
Discuss your risk of diabetes with your doctor and be tested if needed. It’s important to take diabetes medicine as prescribed by your doctor, to manage your blood glucose levels. The normal range for blood glucose (when fasting) is about 4-6 mmol/L.
Lack of physical activity
Aim for a total of 30 min. moderately intense activity, such as brisk walking, on most days.
Excess body weight, especially around the stomach
Aim first to prevent excess weight gain, whatever weight you are. Then make long-term, sustainable plans for achieving and maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25.
Depression and social isolation
Depression can be treated with medical and non-medical therapies. If you’re having trouble coping or functioning, act early and talk to a health professional.
Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.