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To Your Health: Ways for women to improve their heart health

Ladies, we need to take better care of our hearts. According to the American Heart Association, one out of every three women will die from heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer in this country.

Did you know the warnings signs of a heart attack are not always the same for women? Women tend to report more jaw pain, back pain or neck and shoulder pain without the numbness or tingling usually seen in a heart attack.

Women also report a sudden onset of extreme fatigue, much like the flu. Shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness and indigestion are also signs of a heart attack seen more often in women.

Risk factors for heart disease include sedentary lifestyle, use of tobacco, excess alcohol intake, weight above a healthy range, hypertension, diabetes and high levels of stress.

Making dietary changes can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by helping with weight control, blood pressure and diabetes. The Physicians Health Study showed that eating 2 1/2 servings of vegetables a day decreased risk of heart disease by 25 percent.

The Mediterranean Diet recommends eating mostly vegetables and legumes; using whole grains; eating fish and skinless poultry; using olive oil and nuts for heart healthy fats; and using herbs and spices in place of salt.

The DASH diet has similar recommendations including the use of more low-fat dairy products.

Both plans recommend limiting processed foods, red meat, fried foods and sugar.

Put your health first and take the time to care for yourself. You’re worth it.

Shelly Wegman is a registered dietitian at Rex Wellness Centers in Raleigh and Garner. Email: shelly.wegman@unchealth.unc.edu.

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