Genetics, biology and family history are not under your control. But here’s what you can do.
Female smokers, even the only-at-parties variety, increase their chance of heart attack by 124 percent compared to nonsmokers, according to a 24,000-person study. Male smokers have only a 43 percent increased risk. The difference may be due to an interaction between women’s hormones and the smoke.
• Prevent diabetes.
Vigilantly controlling blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes may not reduce the risk of heart disease, but what does: never getting diabetes, according to a recent NIH study. “Uncontrolled blood
sugar is toxic to blood vessels, impairing their structure and function,” explains Hannah I. Lipman, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
• Lose belly fat.
If your tape measure stretches to 35 inches or more around your middle, trim down. Abdominal obesity is not only linked to several heart disease risk factors, such as hypertension and insulin resistance, but increases your chances for heart disease itself.
• Make time for exercise.
Aerobic activity reduces your risk for diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and depression. But you knew that, right?
•Take the Pill wisely.
Tell your ob-gyn about any family history of stroke, heart disease or blood clots before filling your Rx, since the Pill may up your risk. Some birth control pills can affect your cholesterol, so be sure to have your levels checked and discuss results with your doctor. Finally, “If you are on the Pill to help with polycystic ovarian syndrome, have your lipid and blood sugar levels tested,” Lipman says. “PCOS puts you at increased risk for heart disease.”