From how long you sleep to how much wine you drink – the expert reveals ten ways to reduce the risk of heart attack

HERZ disease is often thought of as a male disease – but it kills twice as many women in the UK as breast cancer.

And in the month after a heart attack, women in England and Wales are twice as likely as men to die from it.

Heart disease kills twice as many women as breast cancer


Heart disease kills twice as many women as breast cancerPhoto credit: Getty

dr Hazel Wallace believes more needs to be done to raise awareness of the symptoms in women if we are to increase their chances of survival.

The NHS doctor, nutritionist and founder of education platform The Food Medic says chest pain is the most common symptom in both sexes – but women are more likely to ignore it and wait to get help.

dr Wallace told the Sun on Sunday Health: “A recent review found women were more likely to experience pain between the shoulder blades, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath.

“You have a lower risk of chest pain and sweating.

“But there is significant overlap in the symptoms that men and women experience and in most cases – regardless of gender – chest pain is the most common complaint.

“Heart disease can affect anyone at any stage of life, but when it comes to diagnosis or treatment, women’s odds are poor.

“They go to the hospital later than men because of a lack of symptoms and they think they are having a panic attack.

“They wait at home until symptoms worsen, try to self-medicate, and take care of work or family commitments first.

“Sometimes when a woman is having a heart attack, she might feel nauseous, she might think it’s indigestion, or she might think it’s anxiety or palpitations. Women are more likely than men to be initially misdiagnosed and less likely to receive timely treatment

“Unfortunately, this also means that women die more often.”

A 10-year study found women were twice as likely to die in the month after a heart attack.

dr Wallace said: “It’s pretty shocking because a lot of people think heart disease is a male disease. In fact, it is the single largest killer of women in the world. If you have symptoms that you are unsure about it is always worth calling NHS 111.”

Each year more than 30,000 women are hospitalized after a heart attack and more than 800,000 live with coronary artery disease.

The risk increases after menopause when the heart protection hormone estrogen decreases.

dr Wallace says: “It is still unclear whether HRT can help protect the heart. The research was mixed.

“When it comes to heart health, our gender, age and genetics matter and these are things we cannot change.”

But the good news is that there are many things we can do to reduce the risk.

dr Adds Wallace, “Research suggests that about 90 percent of heart attacks are caused by things you can change. It’s very empowering to know that you can change things and to see how much power you have over your own health.”

dr Wallace shares her top ten rules for a healthy heart for men and women.

Limit processed foods

Cutting down on fatty foods is a sensible place to start


Cutting down on fatty foods is a sensible place to startPhoto credit: Getty

Eat as many foods with healthy fats — olive oil, canola oil, avocado, oily fish — as you like, but cut back on foods high in saturated fat like french fries and pizza.

Red meat is also relatively high in it, so limit yourself to one meal a day. Try meat-free days.

Think about strength training

For heart health, you need cardio exercise—about 150 minutes a week that gets you sweating. But muscle strengthening is also important.

Muscles act like sponges for glucose, so absorb it and create vital healthy glucose metabolism.

Lifting weights, climbing stairs, carrying heavy groceries, or gardening at least two days a week.

manage stress

Stress can increase blood pressure, which puts you at risk and can cause you to consume too much sugar or alcohol.

Find a way to deal with it — go to the gym, go for a walk, or meditate.

Before you go to bed, write down what’s on your mind to unload.

brush your teeth

Brushing your teeth can help reduce your risk of heart disease


Brushing your teeth can help reduce your risk of heart diseaseCredit: Alamy

Some studies show that if you have gum disease, you are at a higher risk of heart disease than someone with healthy gums.

Oral health and heart disease are related to the spread of bacteria and germs from your mouth to parts of your body through the bloodstream.

Getting crazy

Daily consumption of nuts is good for your health


Daily consumption of nuts is good for your healthPhoto credit: Getty

They’ve been shown to lower the “bad” cholesterol that fatty acids can cause in your arteries.

Eat 30g of nuts daily. Too many risks in gaining weight. Choose unsalted or roasted.

Go Mediterranean

One diet that always reigns supreme for the heart is the Mediterranean Way – or The Dash Diet, which is very similar.

Both include lots of fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods.

Watch your salt and sugar intake, and add fiber-rich whole grains like oats, beans, and legumes, which are good for lowering cholesterol.

Dairy products are safe

Dairy products are safe and will not harm your heart


Dairy products are safe and will not harm your heartPhoto credit: Getty

Dairy products contain saturated fat, and typically this is the type of fat that we associate with poor heart health outcomes.

However, studies have shown that despite their high saturated fat content, dairy products do not appear to be harmful to cardiovascular health and may even reduce risk.

Think soy

Soy-based foods can reduce heart disease


Soy-based foods can reduce heart diseasePhoto credit: Getty

Soy-based foods (such as tofu, ground soy beef, edamame beans, soy-based milk/yogurt) have the potential to lower blood cholesterol levels by 3 to 4 percent — thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

Be careful with the red wine

People often ask if a glass of red wine is good for the heart.

Wine is arguably better than other alcohol because it’s made from grapes, which contain polyphenols and antioxidant properties that are good for the heart.

Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine, but stick to the recommended guidelines of 14 units per week for both women and men.

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Don’t sleep too long

Lack of sleep can increase blood pressure and inflammation in the body, which is bad for your heart.

But too much is linked to other unhealthy behaviors – you may not be active enough.

Aim for six to ten hours of good quality sleep each night.

A full night's sleep is essential to your health


A full night’s sleep is essential to your healthPhoto credit: Getty From how long you sleep to how much wine you drink – the expert reveals ten ways to reduce the risk of heart attack

Sarah Y. Kim

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