Easy but Effective Ways to Boost Women's Heart Health After 50
The number of women having heart attacks has dropped in recent years, thanks to more effective treatments and medications. But prevention plays a big part as well.
Developing heart-healthy habits is especially important in your fifties, as the estrogen that has protected your heart and arteries until now begins to decline. Here are five excellent and easy habits to embrace:
1. Stretch Yourself
Japanese researchers have found a correlation between body flexibility and healthy arteries. They hypothesize that stretching exercises improve not only your outer muscles but your inner ones too, strengthening your heart and preventing stiffening of the arteries.
Deep-muscle stretches also relax you and decrease your body's production of cortisol, which helps keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.
If you don't already do so, consider taking a pilates, yoga, or tai chi class at least once a week, or look for some good stretching and flexibility exercise videos.
2. Eat More Fish
Eating 6 ounces of fish three times per week can cut your risk of heart disease by more than 65 percent, according to the research journal PLOS ONE. The blend of omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and potassium found in some types of fish helps boost your levels of "good" HDL cholesterol while cutting triglycerides.
Not all fish are created equal, however. While white fish choices like tilapia and flounder have some omega-3 fats and are healthy alternatives to meats like pork and beef, choose oily fish for the most effect. Best choices include tuna, salmon, arctic char and mackerel.
3. Boost Your Iron Intake
You have probably heard that you need to eat plenty of iron-rich foods during the years when you are menstruating, in order to prevent anemia and other problems. Even after menopause, however, you still need iron to protect your heart's health.
While traditionally foods like red meat and calves' liver have been recommended for their high iron levels, you can get needed iron from healthier foods as well. Foods high in iron include spinach, apricots, broccoli, and dark chocolate. However, too much iron can be unhealthy, so do not take an iron supplement unless your doctor recommends it.
4. Get Plenty of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential to your body's production of collagen and elastin, which help strengthen your arteries and keep them flexible. An 11-year study published in the journal Nutrients found that women with high levels of vitamin C were 70 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
Citrus fruits are a well-known source of vitamin C, including lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit. Other good foods for vitamin C include bell peppers and strawberries. Opt to get your dose of vitamin C from food rather than supplements -- research has shown that supplements do not have the same effect on circulatory health.
5. Drink Some Tea
Drinking at least three mugs per day will help cut your risk of heart disease by nearly half, according to a Boston University study. The key to tea's benefits are polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in your arteries. Inflammation makes your blood vessels more prone to developing plaque buildup and dangerous clots.
Which type of tea is best? Doctors say it doesn't matter, as long as the blend contains actual tea leaves. Black, green, white, or oolong tea, with caffeine or without, all provide a dose of polyphenols. While herbal teas like chamomile can have other healthy benefits, they don't contain tea leaves so will not have the same polyphenol punch.
If you are over fifty, you already know the big steps you need to take to protect your heart's health: quit smoking, get some cardio exercise several times per week, and maintain a healthy weight. But even small steps can make a big difference overall, so try to incorporate some of these into your routine to further reduce your risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.