Breast cancer gets a lot of press but it's not the leading killer of women in this country. That distinction goes to heart disease. As Baby Boomers get older, heart disease threatens to become not only an even more prevalent killer but also a huge drain on health care budgets. According to a recent policy statement in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the cost to treat heart disease will triple in the next two decades even if rates don't go up.
So it's in all our interests to do whatever we can to lower our own vulnerability – and fortunately, there is a lot we can do to reduce our risk of heart disease. A new study published by the American Heart Association found that three major factors account for 85 percent of the reversible risk for heart disease in both women and men: high systolic blood pressure (the top number in blood pressure readings), high cholesterol and smoking. Of these, high systolic pressure is the most important factor, especially for women, according to the study.
Increasing that rate was nearly twice as dangerous for midlife women as men but decreasing it was twice as beneficial. So women have a lot to gain by focusing on this number. You should talk to your doctor about what would work for you, but here are some general tips:
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a normal weight
- Get regular exercise
- Limit your intake of sodium, alcohol and caffeine
- Include lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet and limit fat
For more tips on lowering blood pressure, click here.