If you’re wondering how to look after your heart health, stay tuned because we’re about to explore this one together. Fun starter fact: did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the US? That’s one in five women, with around one in 16 having coronary heart disease. The UK doesn’t fare much better either, with it still being in the number one spot.

Not that this is meant to induce a sense of existential dread. That would just be plain mean. But a little education goes a long way, right. And knowing that your heart (health) is in your hands is an empowering thing. Trust us. This is your mini-guide with practical tips to show your heart the TLC it deserves, so it can keep pumping strong for you.


What Factors Negatively Affect Heart Health?

Stats aside, looking after our heart comes down to good old plain common sense. Eating healthily, exercising, you know, all those types of things. Sometimes a little reframing is needed here because effectively, this stuff is all about self-care and self-love. It might feel like you’re loving yourself when you’re binging on a bucket of ice cream on the sofa, but your heart says no. (But we’re totally with you if that’s your guilty pleasure. Sometimes. That sometimes is the key.)

If we’re talking about the traditional risk factors that play a part in developing scary old heart disease, here’s the rap sheet:

  • Diabetes: We know, if you have diabetes, it’s unfair to think about managing a potential issue elsewhere. But to make it even less fair, science tells us that women with diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease than men. The other thing is that diabetes impacts your sensations of pain which can equal a silent heart attack.
  • Mental health stuff: If anyone’s ever suffered from stress or depression (hands up everyone) you’ll know that your get-up-and-go gets up and goes. It’s never a case of just “pulling yourself together”, but just know that there are effective ways of managing mental health conditions like these. As women are at higher risk of developing stress and anxiety, we owe it to ourselves to look for practical solutions.
  • Being sedentary: Getting that heart pumping is just like working out a muscle. Actually, it really is working out a muscle. A mega important one at that, and leading an active lifestyle rather than a sedentary one is a biggie for staying heart-healthy.
  • Smoking: If you’re partial to this, remember that among other things it also puts women at higher risk of heart disease compared to men. Boo to the inequality, but also, enough said.
  • Menopause: Among the other funky ways menopause affects your body, the low levels of estrogen can also increase the risk of developing smaller blood vessels. That’s not good for your heart and while you probably can’t dodge menopause (alas), you can stay fit and healthy in all the other ways to stay on top of things on a bodily function level.
  • Pregnancy: Another female-only experience, pregnancy is a beautiful, life-affirming thing that can (let’s be real), make your body feel like aliens abducted it and played ping pong with your organs for a bit. While you’re pregnant you can also develop diabetes and high blood pressure long-term, which as we know, are not BBFs with your heart.
  • Inflammatory stuff: Watch out if you have chronic conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis because they increase your risk of heart disease whether you’re a man or woman (yes, finally some equality!) Again, there are ways to manage this. So read on and don’t feel downhearted. No pun intended.
  • Family history: Like your usual family baggage, heart disease likes to keep it within bloodlines. Heart disease tends to be riskier for women than men in family scenarios.

Putting Your Heart Health First

A good question here is, what the heck do we do now you’ve shared all this scary stuff? Well, we have some answers, worry not. Here’s the antidote to that frightening list up there.

To start, think of it as a wellness plan with self-care management tools that will nurture your heart, your health overall, and your mental wellbeing at the same time. This isn’t about starting a punishing routine that you hate (and drop) but making life-long changes that make you feel good inside and out. Here are some starter tips:

  • Find the type of exercise you love: Your heart likes to be challenged, but there is more than one way to do that. Walking, running, Pilates, swimming and cycling are all options. Just think, from a heart POV you need to get it working hard for around 30 minutes five times a week.
  • Stop smoking: It’s seriously one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease in women, and yep, second-hand smoke counts. So, if you and your partner both smoke, quit together. That’s true love.
  • Upgrade your diet: Get inspired with new recipes and swot up on healthy foods. Make it fun and choose meals that sound and taste good and don’t leave you with a sad empty feeling (we’ve all been there). Things to note – cut right down on that trans-fat, added sugars, processed foods, and tons of carbs and work in whole, nutritious, heart-healthy foods.
  • Watch your weight: This isn’t about feeling low about the odd kilo on either side or weighing yourself every night. But keep an eye on it. Obesity is a major factor in heart disease, and if you need more persuasion, a healthy weight and BMI also lowers your blood pressure and reduces the risk of diabetes.
  • Stress less: It’s that easy. Actually, no it isn’t. But stress is an ugly little operator that causes your arteries to tighten, and this can increase that old risk factor. If you’re chronically stressed it can predispose you to coronary microvascular disease too, which is a health no-no. But it is something we can all work on with the right tools. They include everything from CBD to therapy, to lifestyle changes and regular exercise.
  • Think before you drink: And we mean alcohol guys. Admittedly, tipsy tipples get a bad rap for just about everything health-related, but remember, even monks indulge in the odd glass of wine. Not sure what the point is here, except to say that moderation is always the key. Yes, excessive drinking can impact your heart health along with other things, so think like a monk, and stick to a max. of one drink a day.
  • Other heart conditions are a factor: Obviously, right! So, if you have things like high blood pressure or diabetes, manage them with all the good advice your doctor has offered to stay fit and healthy overall.

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