MINNETONKA, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, most people’s thoughts turn to matters of the heart. Although it’s great fun to play Cupid this time of year, February is also American Heart Month — an important time for women in particular to understand their health risks.
By far, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America. The stakes are even higher for women: in the United States, heart disease claims more women’s lives than any other cause of death, and it kills more women each year than men. In fact, women who experience heart attacks under the age of 50 are twice as likely to die from them as men. And, twice as many women than men die within the first few weeks after suffering a heart attack.
“While the dangers of heart disease are well-known for men, not everyone knows that women are at even greater risk and more likely to put off their own health needs,” said Dr. Rhonda Medows, chief medical officer for UnitedHealth Group’s government health programs. “According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, 42 percent of women who experience a heart attack die within one year, vs. 24 percent of men.”
Even though some heart disease risk factors, such as family history and aging, are not controllable, women can make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease. Dr. Medows offers these tips to get women started on a path toward better heart health:
1. Make time for yourself. Women often feel called to meet others’ needs first. Give yourself permission to think about your own needs, and take the time to protect your own health.
2. Exercise regularly. Small adjustments to your level of physical activity – walking or biking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, exercising for 30 minutes a day – can make a significant impact.
3. Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease, along with a host of other health issues. If you smoke, see your health care provider and take advantage of support groups and your family and friends to help you stop smoking.
4. Maintain a healthy diet. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains. Cut down on foods high in cholesterol and sodium, and limit sugar-sweetened beverages. A recent study found that women who eat leafy vegetables such as salads and cooked spinach, and use olive oil instead of butter were about 40-percent less likely to develop heart disease. Your family also will benefit from these healthy diet changes at home.
5. Watch the scale. Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for heart disease and can lead to other health issues like diabetes. Losing weight can seem overwhelming, but setting realistic goals can help. Even a modest amount of weight loss – just 5 percent of your total body weight – has important health benefits.
6. Manage cholesterol. Cholesterol is actually important to overall health. But, too much of it – especially the “bad” kind (LDL cholesterol) – is a major risk for heart disease. Cholesterol levels can be managed by eating foods low in LDL cholesterol and saturated fat and high in “good” (HDL) cholesterol. Be sure to have regular cholesterol screenings.
7. Be aware of diabetes and its warning sign, prediabetes. Having type 2 diabetes can double or quadruple an adult’s chances of developing heart problems. The two conditions are closely linked, so people with diabetes or pre-diabetes should follow their doctors’ instructions on managing blood sugar, healthy eating habits, exercise and/or medication.
In addition to following these tips, it is important to check with your doctor to find out your risk for heart disease. Additional information and helpful resources are offered by: the American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org); the Women's Heart Foundation (www.womensheart.org); Woman’s Day (http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Topic/heart_health.html); and UnitedHealthcare (http://www.uhc.com/source4women.htm), which provides comprehensive information and online seminars about women’s health topics, including heart disease.
About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making health care work better. With headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through six operating businesses: UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, UnitedHealthcare Community & State, OptumHealth, Ingenix and Prescription Solutions. Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 75 million people worldwide. Visit www.unitedhealthgroup.com for more information.
Jennifer Gatti, 952-931-5490
UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement
KEYWORDS: United States North America Minnesota
INDUSTRY KEYWORDS: Women Health Cardiology Fitness & Nutrition Professional Services Insurance Consumer Managed Care