Women's health

Heart health for women

If you're a woman, perhaps one of the most important things you need to know about heart disease is this: You don't need gray hair to get it — or die from it.

It's true that a woman's risk of heart disease increases with age. In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for American women 65 and older.

However, the disease is also the second leading cause of death among women 45 to 64 years old and the third one among women 35 to 44 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That's why it's crucial to protect your heart no matter how many birthdays you've celebrated. The CDC and the American Heart Association recommend that you:

Choose a heart-healthy diet. Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole-grain foods, such as brown rice and whole-grain breads. Heart-smart protein options include lean meats, fish and beans.

Try to limit the overall amount of fat in your foods, and replace saturated and trans fats (like butter or partially hydrogenated oils) with healthy oils, like olive and canola. Also, pay attention to portion size.

Move more. Most adults need to do at least 21/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week, along with strengthening exercises that work all the major muscle groups two or more days a week.

Make it personal. Talk with your doctor about specific risk factors that can raise your risk of developing heart disease and what you can do to lower them. Those risks might include:

• Smoking

• Having diabetes, high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure

• Being overweight

• Drinking alcohol

Also, ask your doctor how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. (They are sometimes different in women than in men.) Also, talk to your doctor what to do if you or someone else has them.