Our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are at risk. Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women each year—more than all cancers combined. Fortunately, we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes, according to Priscilla Hoang, MD, a cardiologist with CHI Franciscan Health.
Education can begin with a well-woman visit. This is the annual check-up, starting at age 20, to review a woman’s overall health, including the key elements of ideal cardiovascular health. The well-woman visit is now free under most health plans and Medicare, thanks to the new health care law, yet less than half the population is aware that this exam and other preventive services are now available with very little cost.
The well-woman visit is a chance to focus on yourself and your overall health and wellness. There are three main goals for your visit:
- Documenting your health habits and history, considering first-degree relatives: mother, father, siblings.
- Getting a physical exam.
- Setting your health goals.
The best way to be protected is to be screened early, says Hoang. “Prevention is the best medicine, so that we can address issues up front.”
When asked about lifestyle changes, Hoang recommends to start with physical activity for 10 minutes a day and increase a little bit every few days. Work up to 60 minutes or 10,000 steps of walking each day. That and adding more vegetables to your diet are two things that can make a drastic difference in your health, she says. Having a plan of how to stay active can include wearing a pedometer and parking farther from your work site, to incorporate more walking into your day. “Putting together a series of small steps makes all the difference,” says Hoang.
The American Heart Association has developed “Life’s Simple 7,” a seven-step guide that defines important ways to reduce risk for heart disease and stroke: manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, get active, eat better, lose weight and stop smoking.
“Lifestyle choices for how we treat ourselves now affect how we will feel in the future and impact other risk factors,” says Hoang.
When it comes to beating heart disease and stroke, it’s time to put our hearts into it.
Take action at: heart.org/goredtacoma