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Your heart is in your hands

Know the risk factors for heart disease that you can control, and make heart-healthy choices to reduce those risks.

High blood pressure

More than half of all adults with high blood pressure are women. This condition can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so talk to your health care professional about your risk. To prevent or manage high blood pressure, eat a healthy diet low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

Smoking

Smoking cigarettes is the most preventable major risk factor of heart disease, and it increases your risk two to four times that of nonsmokers. Thousands of nonsmokers, including infants and children, are harmed by exposure to cigarette smoke. It’s never too late to quit!

High cholesterol

44 percent of American adults have cholesterol levels that are too high. The higher your total blood cholesterol, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Take steps to lower your cholesterol levels by losing unnecessary weight and limiting the saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol you eat.

Physical inactivity

Lack of physical activity increases your risk of coronary heart disease. Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

Being obese or overweight

More than 149 million American adults are overweight, and 75 million are obese. If you have excess body fat — especially at the waist — you’re more likely to develop heart disease and stroke. Work with your doctor to determine your healthy weight and develop a plan to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Diabetes

Compared to women without diabetes, women with diabetes have from two to four times higher death rates from heart disease. A family history of diabetes can significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes. To prevent or manage diabetes, watch your weight and diet, be active, avoid smoking (and secondhand smoke), and talk to your health care professional about your family history of diabetes.

There are other risk factors to be aware of — talk to your doctor about how your age, race and heredity may affect your risk for heart disease.

Reasons to make It your mission

Heart disease and stroke are the greatest health threats to women of all ethnic backgrounds, but only 21 percent realize it.

Consider these facts:

• Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women age 20 and older, killing about one woman every minute.

• More women die of cardiovascular disease than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.

• While one in 30 American women die of breast cancer, about one in three die of cardiovascular disease.

• Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

• Eighty percent of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women made the right choices for their hearts involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.

• Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic white women.

• African-American females are at greater risk and have higher death rates from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than white females.

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