New research says women under 50 years of age are twice as likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer - it's the third leading cause of death for women ages 25-44. In addition, sleep deprivation creates greater heart disease risk.
Sherry Torkos award winning pharmacist, author of Saving Women's Hearts shared surprising facts, myths and misconception about women and heart disease.
1. Swap tortilla chips for potato chips. Why? Tortilla chips have more fiber and less fat and if you choose ones that are fortified with plant sterols, they can actually help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Dip your tortilla chips in fresh salsa. The lycopene in tomatoes can help lower blood pressure. Guacamole is good too, in moderation. Avocados get a bad rap for being high in fat, yet the fat they contain is primarily the good kind (monounsaturated) plus they contain lots of soluble fiber, protein and antioxidants that are beneficial to heart health.
2. Eat more tomatoes and tomato products. Why? Tomatoes contain a range of antioxidants including lycopene, which is widely known for its prostate benefits but research has also shown that it can lower blood pressure and protect the skin from free radical damage from within. How much do you need to get the benefits? The equivalent of 5 fresh tomatoes, or take a full spectrum tomato complex.
3. Go for grapes. Why? Grapes and their liquid counterparts (grape juice and wine) have long been known to be good for the heart and part of the French Paradox. New research conducted at UC Davis has shed light on the many ways that grapes and grape seed extract help the heart...they can lower blood pressure and improve circulation and blood vessel flexibility - making them a powerful Super Food. The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain heart benefits because alcohol does contribute to obesity, high blood pressure and triglycerides. If you are going to drink, moderation is the key: 1 drink/day for women; 2 for men. To get the benefits of grapes without the calories and risks associated with alcohol take a grape seed extract.
4. Cook with palm fruit oil rather than olive oil. Why? Olive oil is great to use in salad dressings or to add to foods after it is cooked but it is not heat stable and its beneficial properties are lost when it is heated to high temperatures. Palm fruit oil is heat stable and contains potent antioxidants called tocotrienols that are good for the heart. Research shows that palm fruit oil can raise good (HDL) cholesterol. Plus is it free of trans fatty acids.
5. Get another hour sleep. Why? A recent Sleep in America poll reported that less than half of adults are getting adequate sleep (7-8hrs). Lack of sleep can raise blood pressure, triggers inflammation, and promotes atherosclerosis. Getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night has been found to increase risk of heart disease in women, independent of other risk factors (such as smoking).
6. Give Yoga a try. Why? Yoga is an effective way to reduce stress, improve sleep and lower blood pressure. Once you learn the techniques and poses it is something that is free and easy to incorporate into even the busiest schedule.
7. Laugh more. Why? Laughing relaxes and expands blood vessels, which helps protect the heart. Negative emotions such as anger, hostility, worry and pessimism are associated with increased risk of heart disease, whereas the opposite traits are protective.