Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention

Many women may not be aware that heart disease and stroke
are major threats to their health. But heart disease is the most
common cause of death among women in the United States,
and stroke is the third most common cause of death. Heart disease and stroke also are major causes of long-term disability.
The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). In CAD, plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries
that carry blood to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes the
arteries to narrow and harden. This keeps the heart from getting all the blood it needs. Blood clots may develop.
If a clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the heart, it
causes a heart attack.
If a clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the brain,
it causes a stroke. Stroke happens when the brain doesn’t get
enough blood. Without enough blood, brain cells start to die.
The good news is that you can take steps to lower your chances
of having a heart attack or stroke, or other heart problems. Here
are some things you can do:

• Get more exercise. Try to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes
of aerobic exercise each week, and muscle-strengthening
exercises on at least 2 days each week.
• Eat heart-healthy foods. Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish,
beans, peas, nuts, and lean meats.
• Eat less salt. Use spices, herbs, lemon, and lime instead of
salt to flavor your food.
• If you drink alcohol, don’t have more than one drink each
day. Too much alcohol raises your blood pressure and can
raise your risk of stroke and other illnesses.
• Get a blood pressure test. If it is high, talk to your doctor
about how to lower it.
• Get your cholesterol tested. If it is high, talk to your doctor
or nurse about losing weight (if you’re overweight), getting
more exercise, eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated
fat, and possibly taking medicine to help.
• Get tested for diabetes. If you have diabetes, keep an eye
on your blood glucose levels. High blood glucose levels can
play a role in cardiovascular disease (see box).
• Take your medicine. If your doctor has prescribed medicine
to help you, take it exactly as you have been told to.

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• Don’t smoke. Smoking hurts your heart and increases your

risk of stroke. If you smoke, try to quit.

• Get more exercise. Try to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes
of aerobic exercise each week, and muscle-strengthening
exercises on at least 2 days each week.
• Eat heart-healthy foods. Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish,
beans, peas, nuts, and lean meats.
• Eat less salt. Use spices, herbs, lemon, and lime instead of
salt to flavor your food.
• If you drink alcohol, don’t have more than one drink each
day. Too much alcohol raises your blood pressure and can
raise your risk of stroke and other illnesses.
• Get a blood pressure test. If it is high, talk to your doctor
about how to lower it.
• Get your cholesterol tested. If it is high, talk to your doctor
or nurse about losing weight (if you’re overweight), getting
more exercise, eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated
fat, and possibly taking medicine to help.
• Get tested for diabetes. If you have diabetes, keep an eye
on your blood glucose levels. High blood glucose levels can
play a role in cardiovascular disease (see box).
• Take your medicine. If your doctor has prescribed medicine
to help you, take it exactly as you have been told to.

http://www.womenshealth.gov

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