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Heart Health for Women Over 40: Get Heart Healthy Today!

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

heart health for women over 40

As women age, the risk of chronic health issues increases, which is why you need to know about heart health for women over 40.

This includes cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and more.

Understanding your health risks and the signs and symptoms associated with heart disease will help you improve your health and continue to live a fit and active lifestyle.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for one in every 5 female deaths.

On top of that, About 1 in 16 women age 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary heart disease.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in women.

Unfortunately, risk factors often go overlooked until it is too late.

Taking steps to improve your diet, increase your physical activity, and reduce stress will go a long way to enhancing your cardiovascular fitness.

By committing to a healthy lifestyle today you will be sure to live a high quality of life for years to come.

Here's what you need to know about heart health for women over 40.

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Warning Signs of Heart Disease in Women

Early on, many women have no symptoms of heart disease.

This is why regular checkups and being proactive about heart health for women over 40 is so vital to detect any underlying medical issues.

Detecting chronic diseases like high blood pressure and high cholesterol allows you to start treating these issues early on to stop disease progression.

However, at any stage of heart disease, symptoms can arise. These include:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in the left arm or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the upper back
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Unfortunately, women with heart disease don’t always present with the common symptoms of straightforward chest pain.

Rather, many women have “atypical” symptoms that include things like indigestion or shortness of breath without chest discomfort.

This is why it is essential to understand your cardiac risks and to take steps to improve your overall health.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • High Stress Levels

Heart Health for Women Over 40

The first step to reducing your heart disease risk is to set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss any underlying health conditions.

This is how you can ensure that your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other medical issues are being well controlled.

Here you can also discuss the best course of action to stay heart healthy.

While there are certain medications that may be necessary depending on your underlying medical conditions, there are numerous ways to decrease your risk of heart disease naturally through diet and exercise.

Regular Exercise

Cardio and resistance training are vital components of any fitness plan to improve your cardiovascular health.

Since obesity and heart disease are closely linked, maintaining a healthy weight is key for heart health.

Not only is aerobic exercise and strength training going to help with weight loss, but it is also a vital component for heart health for women over 40.

Research has shown that even moderate weight loss can decrease your risk for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.

Combined training with both cardio and resistance exercise not only improves fitness but can also prevent or lessen the impact of chronic health conditions as well.

You should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activities or greater than 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activities to have the most benefit.

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Nutrition Matters

A healthy diet is another key factor in lowering heart disease risks.

Limiting foods high in refined sugars and triglycerides will help control your blood sugar.

Additionally, reducing sodium and saturated fat intake will aid in keeping your blood pressure controlled.

Diets that are rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins are the best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to help prevent diabetes and hypertension.

This in turn can decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is one great option for controlling blood pressure, improving health, and decreasing your risk of developing heart disease.

The DASH diet consists of increasing fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts in the diet while limiting red meat and added sugars.

It is relatively low in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium.

Blood Pressure Control

As already mentioned, high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease.

Furthermore, if you already have cardiac disease, high blood pressure can speed up the progression.

This is why it is crucial that you maintain good blood pressure control in order to prevent developing or worsening heart disease.

Proper nutrition and reduced salt intake are two ways to improve blood pressure.

As noted above, the DASH diet is one approach to dietary modifications to help control hypertension.

Reducing salt in the diet is also crucial in preventing high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that combining the DASH diet with further reductions in sodium consumption can reduce blood pressure even further.

In addition, exercise and daily physical activity are not only great for weight loss but are also essential in controlling blood pressure.

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Weight Loss

Obesity is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors for developing heart disease.

Weight loss helps improve blood pressure and blood sugar control.

These factors will also reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Lowering Cholesterol

High cholesterol is strongly associated with cardiac disease.

By lowering your cholesterol levels, you will reduce your risk for coronary artery disease,

There are a number of steps you can take to lower your cholesterol.

These are the same lifestyle modifications that you would take to lose weight or improve your blood pressure.

Diet and exercise will be key in keeping your cholesterol at goal.

As far as diet is concerned, you should limit foods high in saturated fats and trans fats.

Your diet should include a mix of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains while cutting back on salt, red meat, processed foods, and artificially sweetened foods and drinks.

Increasing fiber in the diet can also help reduce cholesterol.

Try to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

This will help reduce your bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve your good cholesterol levels (HDL).

If diet and exercise are not enough to maintain good cholesterol levels, you may need to start on cholesterol-lowering medications.

The most commonly used medicines are called statins.

These help reduce how much cholesterol is produced by the liver.

As with all medications, these will only be started after a discussion with your doctor to ensure that you are on the best treatment plan.

Reduce Stress

We all deal with a certain amount of stress on a day-to-day basis.

However, high amounts of cumulative stress can have a negative impact on heart health.

Your body reacts to increased stress the same way that it reacts to an injury or infection-with inflammation!

This includes inflammation in the blood vessels that can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Finding relaxation techniques to decrease stress can go a long way in reducing heart disease risk.

This includes methods like deep breathing or meditation techniques.

Research has shown that individuals who participate in mindful meditation have decreased levels of stress and an overall improved outlook on life.

In addition, meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to create small, but still valuable, decreases in blood pressure.

Dietary Supplements

While there are a number of prescription medications aimed at lowering blood pressure, controlling diabetes, or managing cholesterol levels, there are also natural supplements that can be beneficial in decreasing your heart disease risk.

Turmeric

Turmeric, and its active component, curcumin, is an Indian spice used worldwide in a variety of products from cooking to cosmetics.

Over the years it has been found to have a number of health benefits and has been found to have protective effects against various chronic diseases.

This includes decreasing heart disease risk through its antioxidant and cholesterol-lowering properties.

For example, in a review of medical studies from Nutrition Journal, turmeric and curcumin significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and triglycerides compared to those in the control group.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Fish oil has long been promoted to decrease triglyceride levels and improve heart health.

Omega 3 fatty acids can boost cardiovascular health by improving the endothelial function of blood vessels through their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Berberine

Berberine is a lesser-known supplement used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

This has been found to decrease inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.

Research has also shown promise in berberine improving insulin sensitivity in individuals with diabetes, lowering lipid levels, and improving blood pressure.

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Garlic

Garlic is often touted for its numerous health benefits, including enhancing cardiovascular health.

Studies have shown that garlic can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol while also reducing inflammatory markers associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Other supplements that have been found to have beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to protect against heart disease include anthocyanins like grape seed extract and carotenoids like astaxanthin.

Heart RX

Of course, no one wants to take 10 different pills a day to improve their heart health.

Luckily there are products like Heart RX from the Fit Mother Project that combine essential heart health vitamins and minerals with natural supplements all in one pill.

Before starting any new supplement, you should discuss your health issues with your doctor first.

Even though something is “natural” there is still the possibility for adverse reactions or for interactions with medications you may already be taking.

However, for most women, these supplements can be a great addition to a quality diet and exercise program aimed at improving heart health.

Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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Our Fit Mother Project Team’s deepest commitment is to helping you live healthier for both yourself and your family. And when it comes to online content, integrity and trust is everything. That’s why our Fit Mother Project staff-writers are all trained professionals in the field of health and wellness (registered dieticians, licensed personal trainers, and licensed physicians) – see the full team here. We rigorously run all of our articles through a rigorous editorial process to ensure the accuracy, simplicity, and utility of the information. And we aren’t just a team of “academics” sitting in an ivory tower. We are real people – with jobs, responsibilities, and families – working hard in the trenches and testing our tips & methods out to make sure you can stay healthy for family.

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Thanks for checking out the blog. We can’t wait to support you toward greater health, energy, and vitality.

– The Fit Mother Project Team

 

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