So What Can And Should Women Do To Reduce Their Chances Of Getting A Heart Problem

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1. Understand that they are as likely as men to get it and that their risk increases after the menopause. Women should therefore take at least as much interest in their hearts and arteries as their breasts and wombs! All women should be as concerned about their cardiovascular health as men, and probably more so.

2. Stop smoking, whatever age they are. Help girls and women of all ages to stop smoking, and discourage girls from starting.

3. Get their cholesterol checked if they are post-menopausal or if they have a family history or another risk factor. The target total cholesterol is 5 mmol/l and the LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol that causes the problem in the arteries) should be less than 3.0 mmol/l. The LDL cholesterol should be less than 2.0 mmol/l, and the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio should be >6.0, in patients with arterial disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

4. Eat a healthy, low fat, low salt, diet with lots of salad, fruit, fresh vegetables, fish and lean chicken.

5. Be slim and fit. Exercise vigorously for 30 minutes per day to get sweaty and breathless. For women who can't, any exercise is better than none. Be as physically active as you can. Older or unfit women who are able to walk should walk quickly.

6. Get their blood pressure checked. If it is high, get down to their best weight and exercise; if it remains high, see the doctor in case they need tests and medication.

7. Get their blood sugar checked. If it is high, indicating diabetes, lose weight, avoid sugars and carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, chocolate and sweets, chips, and most high-calorie snacks), do daily exercise, and have the blood sugar rechecked. If it remains high, diabetes is possible, and this may need further tests.

8. If they feel uncomfortably stressed, try to identify the main cause of their stress and try to solve the problem. If this is difficult to do alone, think about getting advice from friends, family members, and people at work to reduce the stress levels to an acceptably low level. Stress is part of life and almost impossible to get rid of completely. If there seems to be no solution, and it seems that the stress will last for a long time, try to make the best of a bad job and try to find ways of coping with it in the short to medium term. Being healthy and fit, having a good diet, and sleeping well are all effective in helping people live more easily with stress.

9. Avoid illegal drugs and reduce alcohol (no more than 1 unit on any day).

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