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Part 2 – Tending to Our Hearts: Women and Heart Disease

By January 12, 2019 Uncategorized

Is it true that one of three American adults has high blood pressure, also called hypertension?

Yes. That’s 67 million people who have to work to keep their blood pressure in check each day. Unfortunately more than half of people with high blood pressure do not have their condition under control.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood exerted on the walls of your blood vessels as blood flows through them.

Blood pressure has two numbers, systolic and diastolic, and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

Systolic pressure (top number) is the force on the blood vessel walls when the heart beats and pumps blood out of the heart. Diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the force that occurs when the heart relaxes in between beats.

What’s an ideal blood pressure?

Ideally, the systolic blood pressure or top number should be 139 or less and the diastolic blood pressure or bottom number should be 89 or less.

What are some ways to keep the blood pressure under control?

  • If you have high blood pressure, take your medication as directed.
  • Participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Reduce sodium and eat a diet that’s high in vegetables, fruits, and fiber.
  • Manage stress

On that note, about stress, is there an emotional component to heart disease?

Unresolved or unmanaged stress plays a big role in the manifestation of heart disease. Believe it or not, emotional undercurrents such as unforgiveness also play a role. We have to tend to our hearts to foster optimal well-being.

During stressful events, women usually adopt a tend-and-befriend interpersonal response, which is characterized by increased nurturing, protective and supportive behaviors. In other words, women have a tendency to look out for everyone else in their familial and social circle but themselves. So to combat this tendency of self-neglect, we have to modify our habits and be as good to ourselves as we are to other people.  

How does cholesterol affect heart disease risk?
Cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack. 

What increases cholesterol levels?

Many things can affect cholesterol levels.  

  • Diet: foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol can increase cholesterol levels
  • Obesity: being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: people who are not active tend to have higher cholesterol levels
  • Family History: if someone in your family has high cholesterol, you are more likely to have high cholesterol
  • Age: some people can experience an increase in cholesterol levels with advancing age

One last question that I’m often asked: What are some preventive lifestyle measures to help guard against heart disease?

  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain normal body weight
  • Eat a healthy diet with reduced saturated fats  
  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day on most days of the week
  • Manage stress
  • And lastly, be good to yourself!