Tips to Reduce your Heart Disease Risk
Although it may seem like the odds are against you, there are plenty of ways to reduce your risk of heart disease after menopause. You’ve likely heard that a good diet and regular exercise are helpful in the fight against disease, but do you know what kind (and how much) will bring the greatest benefit? There are a few specific ways to see a more positive impact.
First, get familiar with your numbers. Vague pledges to eat “healthier”, workout “more often”, and “cut down” on unhealthy habits can set you up for disappointment. Without clear targets, it’s much easier to stray from your plan, so use solid, measurable goals from the very start.
- BMI. It’s not a perfect measurement of health, but experts agree that your body mass index is an important number when it comes to assessing your disease risk. Your own personal BMI is determined by your age, gender, height and weight. After age 50, the normal BMI range for women is between 28 and 29; a BMI of 27 to 28 is more appropriate for women 60 and over.
- Number on the scale. The more weight you carry, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood to your tissues, and that can wear it out. Talk to your doctor about the right weight for your height and frame, and be sure to weigh yourself regularly in order to stay on track.
The key is to monitor your weight without obsessing over small fluctuations. Remember things like water retention, stress, sleep, and heat can send the number on the scale up or down, so be reasonable in your expectations and stay focused on the end goal.
- Minutes of exercise. Experts suggest that women get 150 minutes of physical activity each week to lower their risk of heart disease, but if you need to shed a few pounds, you probably need to increase that number. Also, be sure you spread out your exercise time over the course of the week – squeezing several days’ worth into a single weekend is a recipe for injury, and your body won’t reap the same rewards.
- Healthy servings. Once you’ve determined a healthy caloric goal for you (2000 calories a day is reasonable for weight maintenance), divide them up before you sit down to meals. First, get used to what 100 or 200 calories looks like for various ingredients, and then find ways to fit in 4.5 cups of veggies and fruits, six servings of whole grains, and two to three servings of lean protein each day.
A dietary change is often the easiest first step to better heart health, and it may give you the energy to handle other menopausal discomforts, too. Some women find they develop an intolerance to certain foods around perimenopause, and a switch to a healthier menu brings more comfort and less weight gain, along with better heart health.