-One in four women in the United States dies of heart disease, while one in 30 dies of breast cancer, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.
People need to be aware of risk factors that conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease, Reames says. Risk factors for heart disease are:
– High blood pressure.
– High blood cholesterol.
– Being overweight.
– Being physically inactive.
– Having a family history of early heart disease.
– Age, which is 55-years-old or older for women.
“If you're not physically active, you're much more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke,” Reames says. “Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improves cardiovascular fitness and helps reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Exercise can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. It can also help lower blood pressure. For most healthy people, Reames and other health experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week to condition your heart and lungs.
“Moderate activities such as walking, gardening, housework or dancing for at least 30 minutes on most days can help your heart,” she says. “The time may be broken into shorter periods. If you've been inactive, you can start with 10 minutes of physical activity, then work up to more.”
Too much body fat, especially if a lot of it is in the waist area, increases the risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Women with excess body fat are at higher risk of heart disease, even if they don't have other risk factors.
“If you’re overweight, try to reach a healthy weight, and stay there,” Reames says. “To lose weight, most women should eat 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day, but not less than 1,200. Losing one to two pounds per week is considered a healthy weight loss.”
Many overweight and obese women have difficulty losing weight and keeping it off. It's important to remember that even modest weight loss – five to 10 percent of body weight – can help lower the risk of heart disease.
Eating a variety of nutritious foods from the USDA MyPlate food groups – grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods and dairy products – is important for good health and to prevent disease.
“Although you may be eating plenty of food, your body make not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy,” Reames says. “Make smart choices to get the nutrients you need. Choose nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins minerals, fiber and other nutrients.”
High blood pressure increases risk of stroke and heart disease complications. A diet that includes natural sources of potassium is important in controlling blood pressure because potassium blunts the effects of sodium. The recommended daily intake of potassium for an average adult is about 4,700 milligrams per day.
Fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) dairy foods, nuts and seeds, and fish are good natural sources of potassium.
Too much potassium can be harmful in many older persons and those with kidney disorders, Reames warns. Potassium affects the balance of fluids in the body. With increasing age, the kidneys become less able to remove potassium from the blood. Therefore, before taking any over-the-counter potassium supplement or using salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride, consult your health care professional.