(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Heart disease kills more than 50,000 more women than men each year - and strikes women, on average, 10 years later than men, according to the Society for Women's Health Research. Although women have symptoms different from men, several of the major risk factors for heart disease are often the same: poor diet, being overweight, high cholesterol and a sedentary lifestyle.
Marjorie Jenkins, M.D., professor and associate dean for women in health and science at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), and chief scientific officer for the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health (LWBIWH), said knowing the difference between how men and women metabolize food not only can help women lose weight, but may also help reduce their risk for heart disease.
"A healthy diet is critical to heart health," Jenkins said. "Since heart disease is the no. 1 killer of women, a great first step a woman can take toward protecting her heart is to eat foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, which are low saturated fat, cholesterol and salt, and loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. Diet isn't everything, but it's important."
Jenkins suggests a rule of five:
- Don't eat any processed food with more than five ingredients
- Eat at least five small meals a day
- Walk for five minutes at least five times a day (even at work)
- Stop everything and rest your brain for five minutes to reenergize
A woman's risk of heart disease increases during midlife, partly because her body stops producing estrogen, Jenkins said. Other ways a woman can lower her chances of cardiovascular disease include quitting smoking and staying aware of her blood pressure level.
Jenkins recently co-authored a book with women's health advocate Staness Jonekos called "Eat Like a Woman (And Never Diet Again)," which contains scientifically sound advice on diet and nutrition designed specifically for the female body. She is also the head of the new Cardiovascular Risk Evaluation for Women (C.R.E.W.) Clinic at the Texas Tech Physicians Center for Cardiovascular Health in Lubbock. The C.R.E.W. clinic is focused on the unique needs of women and preventing heart attacks and stroke.
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