Are you taking good care of your health? Most women tend to avoid the subtle symptoms of being unwell, given their responsibilities. Instead, they put other people's wellbeing before their own.
Taking on this nurturing response may leave you exposed to a host of heart-related health mistakes if you don't intentionally work to avoid them.
Studies show that women are more susceptible to different heart diseases at different stages of life.1 These studies show that it does not only happen when you hit menopause, which is a common misconception women have. Heart health problems in women continue to soar, showing that women need to focus more on their own health.
To help you stay ahead of heart health problems, here are some heart health mistakes you should keep in mind with solutions to help avoid them.
1. Neglecting a consistent healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet is good for your heart, but most people neglect this. It might be common knowledge, but given the effects of not eating healthy are not immediate, people continue to indulge.
The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” holds and should be something you always keep in mind. Studies have shown that indulging in junk foods, sugary foods, and foods with too much salt (high sodium) can result in a rise in women's cholesterol (high cholesterol).2
Taking your daily food intake from unhealthy to healthy will do wonders for your heart health. Experts suggest eating a balanced, healthy diet that features various food choices from different food groups, with plenty of vegetables and nutritious foods.3
Including fibre sources, proteins, healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats is a great way to start. However, keeping this up may prove to be a challenge if you don't plan your meals. To give you better chances to follow a healthy diet, prepare your main healthy meals and snacks in advance.
Doing this ensures that if you feel hungry, you can reach for a healthy alternative each time. If you plan to eat out, ensure that your food is low on sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats.
2. Lack of enough sleep
As a woman, you may have so much going on at home and at work that you compromise on sleep to get it all done. However, not having enough sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, raising the risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that aiming for at least 6 hours of sleep can help keep you healthy and well-rested.4 However, if you have interrupted sleep patterns, especially for post-menopause women, you need to take a proactive approach to help you sleep better.
Start by reducing stimulant intakes like coffee, go hard on your workouts to help tire yourself out, and develop a night routine to help condition your body to sleep. Taking time to rest and get some sleep will leave you ready to tackle the next day's tasks better.
3. Leading an inactive lifestyle
Inactivity may lead to weight gain and affect your heart health. Leading an inactive lifestyle is a risky proposition resulting in numerous heart-related health issues like diabetes. One of the symptoms of diabetes is weight gain, which could indicate that you might have neglected your health for too long.
Inactivity in our daily lives can result from such busy schedules that there's barely time to get to the gym. However, going to the gym should not be the only solution to leading a healthy and active lifestyle.
Working out from home, running or taking a brisk walk every day is a great place to start. Setting a schedule to have at least 30 minutes of activity daily will help you avoid heart health issues.5 Sticking to your plan and not compromising on gaining just those few minutes of exercise is essential.
4. Lack of adequate information
Educating yourself on heart health issues is essential to stay informed on what to look out for. For example, knowing stroke symptoms and heart attack symptoms will allow you to make informed decisions and get medical help immediately should you experience any signs or symptoms. In these cases where time and early treatment is critical, you could help save your own life.
Additionally, if you have any health issues, educating yourself on your treatment options, which may include investigating integrative vs functional medicine,6 will help you and your doctor work with an approach that is right for you. Neglecting to educate yourself will only leave you in the dark and delay your response time when dealing with heart health issues.
5. Increased stress levels
Your stress levels significantly affect your heart health, and you should try to manage them to ensure that you stay healthy. While it is normal to feel the stressors of day-to-day life get to you, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope.
Different practices like journaling, meditation and breathing techniques are great ways to pace yourself. However, stressful circumstances in life cannot be entirely avoided, so try to develop systems to counter their effects. Taking your time to destress every day will help keep your stress levels in check and ensure that you can live a healthy life.
6. Indulging in alcohol and cigarettes
Alcohol and cigarettes are common stress relievers and a part of life for many people. However, people tend to neglect the adverse effects on their health, especially their heart health.
Alcohol and cigarettes are significant risk factors for stroke in women as well as men7 and should be reduced or avoided.
First, consider the amount of alcohol or cigarettes you indulge in daily and slowly decrease this. To help you do this, think about why you use them and consider swapping them for healthier alternatives.
If you use them to destress, try exercising or meditating instead, and if you use them to pass the time, try calling up a friend to chat or catch up with people in places where alcohol is not the focus. Take a proactive approach toward reducing your alcohol and cigarette intake to keep your heart healthy.
7. Neglecting regular blood pressure level checks
Regular blood pressure level checks are a great way to keep up with your heart health and how you are faring, but unfortunately, this is an often overlooked step. Many women may also make the mistake of not keeping an eye on their health until there are clear signs that something is wrong.
However, high blood pressure is a silent condition that has no overt signs. As one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, though, high blood pressure needs to be addressed, whether that's through eating a diet to lower blood pressure or medication. Therefore, regular doctor visits to check your blood pressure levels are essential. Your doctor will assess your heart health risks and recommend a way forward.
Written by Nicole McCray. Header image: Pexels.
- Garcia M et al. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.307547
- Bahadoran Z et al. https://doi.org/10.15171/hpp.2015.028
- American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations
- Fung et al. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.174409
- Office on Women's Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/heart-disease-and-stroke/heart-disease/heart-disease-prevention#1
- Rahav Wellness. https://rahavwellness.com/demystifying-integrative-medicine-vs-functional-medicine
- Peters SAE et al. https://doi.org/10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.002342