I’ll be the first to admit it. I get stressed.
Stress affects our health in many ways, but heart disease is a common result in the United States, particularly among women. As a woman, this is a stressor in itself. Worries and perfectionism aside, what are some simple, everyday ways you and I can decrease our stress and be kind to our hearts?
A plant-heavy or plant-based diet is a wonderfully heart-healthy eating plan. Personally, I switched from a vegetarian to a vegan diet 2 years ago, and everything I continue to learn about its health benefits encourages me to keep at it. Avocado and olive oil are my favorite plant-based ways to lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol while leaving heart levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol intact.
Hobbies that include movement are a low-stress way to get your heart pumping stronger. Dance class (or dancing around the house), gardening, vigorous cleaning and yoga or stretching are some relatively low-impact and low-cost ways to get your circulation up and flex your heart muscle.
But what about the mental stress? It’s the biggest factor in many of our busy lives. Mindfulness meditation is one way to change your mindset and even regulate the rhythm of your heart. Look for a zen or yoga center in your area for more information. Lucky for me, San Francisco is home to a beautiful Zen Center that hosts a variety of programs, classes and retreats.
My personal favorite fact about preventative heart health? Doing good for others lowers your stress levels.
This is something we can all do anytime and it doesn’t have to cost money – sharing time is just as valuable.
If you’d like to find volunteer opportunities in your area, you can use our Act Locally search option and contact local charities to see how you can help. Bonus points on volunteering: It gets you outside – and being in nature is another great de-stressor.Even if you live in a city, you can likely find an urban gardening project to volunteer your time. Check out The National Gardening Association’s Kids Gardening program, which empowers every generation to lead healthier lives, build stronger communities, and encourage environmental stewardship through gardening programs.
If you’d like to support their efforts:
The most sobering fact I uncovered in my research: women are more prone to suffer from undiagnosed heart disease. Women’s symptoms tend to differ from men’s, and women are more likely to suffer a silent heart attack.
In fact, heart attacks are responsible for the loss of half a million women per year in the U.S. alone. Heart disease is the number one killer of women even though many women are more afraid of breast cancer.
I lost a friend and community member, far before her time, to silent heart disease. After her untimely passing a few years ago, another friend organized memorial donations in her honor to WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. It’s a charity that provides support and research and was started by three women who have personal experience with heart disease issues. Women Heart was the first – and is still the only – national patient-centered organization focused exclusively on women’s heart disease.
If you’d like to donate to help WomenHeart carry out its work:
Education, information and advocacy are our greatest weapons against killer heart disease. Together, we can multiply our strengths in fighting the battle against heart disease with a unified front. We have to watch out for each other, right?
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