When we think of heart disease and heart attacks, we tend to associate it with men. Yet, while men are more susceptible to heart attacks after the age of 35, a woman’s risk increases once she hits menopause.
The British Heart Foundation states ‘women are twice as likely to die of coronary heart disease, the main cause of heart attack, as breast cancer in the UK.’
It goes on to say that heart disease was the single biggest killer of women worldwide in 2019.
Despite this, it’s often considered a man’s disease.
We all know that our heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. It powers our circulatory system that ensures all the organs and tissues in the body get the oxygen they need. Therefore it is important to look after it.
In this article I’ll explore ways of Looking After Your Heart after turning 40.
Are you taking care of your heart?
Once we hit 40, it becomes important to have regular health checks and to start looking at our lifestyles and diet.
I’ve mentioned many times how a woman in her 40s will have different nutritional needs than a woman in her 20s. So if you have been living the same lifestyle and consuming the same diet since your 20s, it’s time to make some changes.
Whilst studying for my nutrition degree, my lecturer told me that a woman needs to prepare the body for menopause 10 years earlier, as you want to be as healthy as you can when you go through the transition. This makes sense as you will reduce your risk of disease and also have a smoother transition into menopause, with fewer symptoms.
Here are some of the risk factors associated with heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Not doing enough physical activity.
In this article I’ll look at the foods to eat and lifestyle changes for a healthy heart.
Heart-friendly foods to introduce
If you are still living off takeaways and ready meals, then it’s time to make some changes. I always say, it’s better to cook everything fresh from scratch. You get more nutrients that way, and you know exactly what goes into your food.
If you can use fresh, organic ingredients and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- Instead of using sodium based salts, use nori flakes or kelp to season food. If you want to use salt, then choose pink Himalayan salt or mineral rich sea salt.
- Vitamin C is very good for the circulatory system. Include blueberries, kiwis, cherries, sweet potatoes, strawberries, broccoli and kale in your diet every week.
- Use garlic, onions and ginger for your cooking. Garlic contains allicin, a compound produced when garlic is chopped or crushed, which supports blood vessels and blood pressure.
- Include cayenne pepper in your cooking as it increases circulation.
- Include more omega 3 essential fatty acids, like linseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, wild salmon, sardines and mackerel.
- Add in nuts, such as brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts and especially walnuts. These are high in alpa-linolenic acid, a type of omega 3 fatty acid, which may help blood move smoothly. When having nuts, make sure they are unsalted.
Manage your weight
Being a healthy weight is really important as we get older, as being overweight could lead to many health problems, including heart disease and heart attacks.
The dangerous fat is abdominal fat as that is where your organs are.
I don’t mean go on diets, I don’t believe in them. I am all about balance and moderation. You can lose weight by mindfully consuming foods which nourish your body, and exercise.
If you have tried to lose weight and have been unsuccessful then it could be time to work with a professional such as myself.
Be physically active
It’s thought we should exercise for 20-30 minutes, five times a week, to keep our hearts well. This can include running, walking, swimming, cycling or yoga.
Any movement is better than none! So if you are new to this, start small and build up. Aim to get in 10,000 steps a day and introduce some gentle yoga in the mornings or evenings.
Get more movement into your day by walking or cycling rather than taking the car or public transport. If you live in a big city like London, then simply getting off the tube or bus a couple of stops early is great for getting in those steps.
One of the best ways to make sure you continue Looking After Your Heart is to quite smoking.
Smoking is a huge risk for heart disease. If you really cannot stop, then think about seeing a professional to help you. There is a lot of support available.
Cut down your alcohol consumption
Yes, it’s time to look at how much you drink and think about cutting down.
Studies show a link between regularly drinking too much alcohol and blood pressure. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart which can lead to heart disease, increasing your risk of a heart attack. Limit drinking to a couple of drinks a week.
Cut out processed foods
These are high in bad fats, sugar and salt so you want to limit them. And by processed I am referring to any product with over five ingredients.
Make a commitment to always cook from scratch and have takeaways and processed foods occasionally.
For those less comfortable with cooking, recipe boxes are a great way to start – you get all the fresh ingredients and simple, step-by-step instructions to follow.
Manage your stress
A little stress is good, it motivates us into action. But long periods of prolonged stress is not.
Long-term stress increases exposure to the stress hormone cortisol and increases the risk of heart disease in women over time. Take a look at your lifestyle – what is causing the stress and what can you do to manage or reduce it?
Get enough sleep
It is thought that adults who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely have health problems and are more susceptible to heart attacks. Getting good quality sleep is so important to our health – not only does our body repair itself, it also helps our brains manage our stress levels.
I hope you have found this article about Looking After Your Heart after turning 40 useful.
If you need any support in losing weight or with creating a healthy lifestyle to manage stress, eat better and improve your energy then get in touch. I work with women over 40 to take back control of their health and vitality.