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JFK Offers Heart-Healthy Tips for Women!

Photos2In 2004, the American Heart Association faced a challenge. Cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, yet women were not paying attention. In fact, many even dismissed it as an older man's disease. To dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women, the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women, a passionate, emotional social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health.

JFK is proud to support the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement and offers these simple heart-healthy tips for women:

Get Some (Good) Sleep!

It's a proven fact ... sleep is good for your heart. We all know that getting enough sleep is good for our mood, cognitive ability and overall health. With enough sleep, the body just heals and feels better. But did you know that hours spent sleeping actually protect against calcium deposits in the coronary arteries — the deposits that cause heart attacks?

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a relationship between sleep quantity (hours spent asleep) and calcium build-up — or calcification — in the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. For each additional hour of sleep, the risk of calcification of the coronary arteries decreased by 33 percent — an outcome equal to reducing blood pressure by 16 points!

For the health of your heart, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep may require some behavioral changes. Here are some things you can do:

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco products during the day, especially in the hours before sleep.
  • Finish eating two to three hours before you hit the hay.
  • Exercise regularly, but complete your exercise a few hours before bedtime.
  • Remove electronics like computers and televisions from your room, even your smartphone!
  • Keep the room cool, comfortable, quiet and dark. Use a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Eat Some Fat ... The Good Fat!

Easy ladies — put down the ice cream and doughnuts. We are not talking the cupcake frosting kind of fat. We're after the good fat! It's the "good fats" that can benefit your heart and overall health.

According to the American Heart Association, there are two classes of "good for you" fats: polyunsaturated fats, which include essential fatty acids that our bodies need but can't make, and monounsaturated fats.

Remember, a fat gram is nine calories whatever its source, so you can't enjoy unlimited quantities of heart-healthy fats. Too much fat will lead to weight gain and put you at risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Keep your intake of fat limited to 30 percent of calories, with no more than 10 percent of total calories coming from saturated fat.

Here are some good choices of unsaturated fats:

  • Avocados
  • Some oils: soybean oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil
  • Flaxseed (try mixing them in yogurt)
  • Some nuts: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts
  • Sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Peanut butter (without added hydrogenated oils or sugar)
  • Olives
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring tuna
  • Soybeans
  • With cooking oils, use the least processed/refined oils and still use them sparingly; and when you see an oil listed in processed foods, make sure the word hydrogenated doesn't precede it!

Know Your Cholesterol Numbers!
Some are surprised to know that we actually need some cholesterol in our bodies, and cholesterol only causes a problem when you have too much of it in your blood because excess cholesterol is deposited in the lining of the arteries, including the arteries that feed your heart muscle.

This narrows the area inside the artery, where blood flows. High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. For a healthier heart and to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack — you should have your cholesterol checked at least every five years, starting at age 20. The most accurate test is a lipoprotein profile, a blood test given after fasting for nine to 12 hours.

Here's some help setting your cholesterol number targets:

Your total cholesterol — Your LDL ("bad") cholesterol; this cholesterol is what's deposited in your arteries. Your HDL ("good") cholesterol; this cholesterol helps keeps deposits from building up in your arteries. Your triglycerides; these are another form of fat in your blood. A total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL to 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high; 240 mg/dL and above is high.

HDL cholesterol — An HDL level of less than 40 mg/dL is low; 40 to 59 mg/dL is satisfactory but not optimal; 60 mg/dL and above is considered optimal. The higher your HDL cholesterol, the better, because it helps protect against heart disease.

LDL cholesterol — A high LDL is anything above 130 mg/dL. An LDL level of 130 to 150 mg/dL is considered borderline high; 160 mg/dL and above is high to very high. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol can cause fatty plaque to form along the insides of your artery walls. This is called atherosclerosis, and it develops over a long time. It is especially dangerous if it narrows the vessels to the heart and brain, creating a major risk for heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.