You think breast cancer is bad? Heart Disease is worse!!

We all get very emotional about breast cancer, and it does receive the lions share of publicity. But, did you know that heart disease is killing three times as many women in Australia each year!!

In fact, according to the Australian Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills one Aussie every 12 minutes or 5 every hour! It used to be the men that suffered most from CVD, but women are catching up. It is now the No.1 cause of death for women in Australia. And we aren’t just talking about older women, because the 18 to 45 age bracket is also succumbing.

What are the risk factors? The usual suspects- high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and being overweight. Simple tests can measure the first two, and all of them can be prevented.

Why is high blood pressure a problem? I can’t feel it! High BP or hypertension puts an increased strain on your heart and can affect all of your organs. It is responsible for 70% of strokes, heart attacks and chronic heart failure. In younger women, other risk factors include the OCP (oral contraceptive pill), pregnancy, smoking and being overweight.

Prolonged stress will also raise BP. Try to meditate and take time to relax or go for a walk. Exercise in general is a great way to release stress.

What about high cholesterol? You do need some cholesterol for normal cell function and to produce hormones, but your liver handles that. You certainly don’t need to add more in your diet. Too much cholesterol causes a build up of fatty plaques in your arteries, which then harden and narrow (atherosclerosis). When this happens, you get less blood going to vital organs. If they narrow sufficiently, you eventually get no blood flow and organ tissue starts to die, such as in a heart attack. So limit your intake of food containing saturated fats (animal fats and dairy fats such as butter and cream) as well as trans fats (found in packaged foods like pastries, biscuits and takeaway foods). Choose fresh unprocessed foods – fruit and vegetables, lean meats and fish, etc.

Where does obesity and smoking fit in? Obesity is a growing epidemic – since 1989 the number of obese women between the ages of 18-44 has tripled, according to the Heart Foundation. A sedentary lifestyle and overeating of calorie dense foods are the culprits.  20-30 minutes of exercise or physical activity each day is recommended, and a dietitian or nutritionist can help with healthy meal planning. But above all, quitting smoking is by far the single biggest thing you can do to improve health outcomes.

The next best thing you can do (after quitting smoking) to get a healthier heart and prevent cardiovascular disease, is to exercise more. But often you may feel you can’t exercise because of various aches and pains, or don’t know where or how to start for whatever reason. Why not give Williamstown Osteo and Pilates a call! They will soon get you on track to improve your heart and overall health.