Cardiovascular Disease and Women: Keeping Your Heart Whole

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We’re nearing the end of February, American Heart Month, so it’s a great time to revisit the link between weight and heart health for maximizing total wellness.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but did you know it’s the #1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year? While there are many misconceptions regarding heart disease in women, there ARE many women at risk — but these tips can help you reduce that risk.

Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease:

Know Your Numbers.

Do you know the most critical numbers for heart health? There are five:

  • Blood Pressure: Ideal is 120/80 mm Hg
  • Total cholesterol: Ideal range is <200 mg/dL
  • HDL (Good cholesterol): Ideal is at least 50 mg/dL
  • Fasting Blood sugar: Ideal is 100 mg/dL
  • Body mass index (BMI): Ideal range is less than or equal to 25

Eat Fruits, Veggies and Healthy Fats

These nutrients are crucial! Fruits and veggies are lower in calories while high in fiber and antioxidants. Their potassium levels can also keep your blood pressure in check, as potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure in clinical studies. Healthy fats such as those found in flax seeds, walnuts, avocados, olive oil, salmon and tuna may help lower your risk for heart disease.

Cheers to Less Alcohol!

Going out with the girls is fun and all, and we know… there’s nothing like a nice glass of wine with dinner. However, when it comes to maximizing your heart health and making healthier decisions for your body, moderation with alcohol is definitely key.

Improve Your Attitude

Yup — that’s right! Stress and negativity are significant contributors to heart disease. Stress increases blood pressure and can offset vascular health. Take care of your ticker by practicing the power of positivity! Start with daily mediation, relaxation, fresh air or yoga.

Limit Sugar for a Sweeter Heart

Did you know that elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels? A recent review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that controlling blood sugar is important for heart health because it can reduce the risk for heart attack, stroke and heart-related deaths (1). Keep your levels steady with regular protein and fiber balance!


1. Blood Sugar Regulation for Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease PreventionPeter E.H. Schwarz, Patrick Timpel, Lorenz Harst, Colin J. Greaves, Mohammed K. Ali, Jeffrey Lambert, Mary Beth Weber, Mohamad M. Almedawar, Henning Morawietz. Journal of the American College of Cardiology Oct 2018, 72 (15) 1829-1844; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.081

About the Author:
Shelby Burns is a Senior Bariatric Dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She completed her MS at Boston University in Human and Nutrition Metabolism and is both a Certified Personal Trainer and Licensed Dietitian! Throughout her time in the health and wellness world, her experience has included corporate nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, and weight loss counseling in addition to personal training as she fully believes in a total lifestyles approach in order to transform, take care of, and nourish the body and mind.


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