Station InitiativesWellness Wednesday


Simple steps to improve heart health

Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-15 19:57:03-05

We’ve seen a lot of hearts this week with Valentine’s Day – but have you stopped to think about your heart and how to keep it healthy? Heart health is something many of us take for granted, but making small changes now can make a big difference.

“I think the common notion is that heart disease is a man’s disease, but actually, heart disease is the primary killer of both men and women,” said Dr. Lana McGill with Intermountain Health.

Dr. McGill says the numbers are staggering.

“About 1 in 3 women will die from heart disease. About 1 in 30 might die of breast cancer or something like that, so it is a growing concern,” said McGill.

One issue is that it can be more difficult for women to know they’re having a heart attack since the signs can be different than for a man.

“Typically, when you think of a heart attack you think of that crushing substernal chest pain, sweating, things like that. And that can happen in women also, but sometimes the symptoms of a heart attack are more subtle,” said McGill.

She says that could range from something like shortness of breath, or fatigue, to jaw or arm pain.

“I think it’s really important for women to really pay attention to their bodies, and if something is not right, have it evaluated by your primary care provider,” said McGill.

Risks increase with age, but heart disease affects women both young and old.

McGill said, “I always recommend that you know your risk and understand your risk. So, in cardiovascular disease, we have modifiable risk factors and non-modifiable risk factors.”

The good news according to physicians is that about 80% of risk factors are modifiable – meaning there are things you can do to improve your heart health. Those steps include:

  • Lose weight or maintain an ideal body weight - that will reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes risk.
  • Eat a healthy diet – trimming saturated fat and salt, limit red meat, and swap butter for other alternatives.
  • Move more and maintain an active lifestyle – exercise at least 40 minutes 3-5 times a week.
  • Quit smoking – the most common risk factor for women and one that can triple your heart attack risk.
  • De-stress daily – this can help lower your blood pressure.

The list may seem daunting, but even a couple of these simple changes can help both men and women improve their heart health to live longer, healthier lives.