Five Heart-Smart Moves
knowing your risk factors and paying attention to your symptoms, here are a handful of essential healthy-heart steps to take:
Don't smoke! If you do, quit. "This will have the greatest impact in preventing heart disease and stroke," says Rose
Marie Robertson, M.D. In addition, avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.
» Eat a healthful diet. That
means one that's low in fat (especially saturated fat) and rich in fruits, vegetables
» Exercise regularly. Move your body aerobically for at least 30 minutes, five or more times per week.
It'll help control weight and blood pressure.
» Lose excess weight. "Obesity is an independent risk factor even
when you control for all the others," says Dr. Robertson.
» Cut down your risk. It's not enough to just reduce
your numbers: Aim for normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
A Healthy Heart
Get heart-smart today and
Cynthia Morse never imagined it was possible
to have a heart attack in her early 30s. But it happened: In 1999, this mother of two suffered sudden cardiac arrest while
shopping at Home Depot. "I keeled over in the carpet aisle," recalls Morse, now 37. "I never thought I'd have something life-threatening
happen at such a young age." Fortunately, a nurse happened to be in the store; she administered CPR and got Morse's heart
Although Morse was in a coma for a couple of
days, she recovered fairly quickly; she was in good health overall and didn't have a family history of heart disease. "I suspect
that because I'm an active, healthy person, I fared better than I might have otherwise," says
Morse. Nevertheless, the experience was a wake-up call, alerting her to the reality that heart problems can strike younger
women, too. That's why Morse, who now wears a pacemaker, takes steps to prevent heart disease and so should you!
A Women's Disease, TooAccording to the latest statistics, each year 236,000
women die from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for this group. Yet, a recent survey by the American Heart
Association (AHA) revealed that only 34% of women identify heart disease as the primary cause of death for women, and a mere
8% view heart disease as their greatest personal health threat. Why are women so ill-informed? "Statistically, women typically
develop heart disease 10 years later than men, but it can happen to younger women," says Rose Marie Robertson, M.D.,
past president of the AHA and a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. "Unfortunately,
both physicians and women have the bias that young women can't have heart disease." In fact, even as the overall cardiac mortality
rate has fallen over the past 20 years, it has risen for women. "We haven't focused enough attention on the fact that heart
disease starts young. It's very much like osteoporosis: You have to prevent it before it's a problem. You don't build bone
after 50 and you don't begin to clear out your arteries either," says Dr. Robertson.
Women and Men Are DifferentAlthough the same risk factors that apply to men high blood pressure, smoking,
being overweight or sedentary, and so on also apply to women, some risk factors, such as diabetes, play a greater role in
women. "Diabetes leads to a two- to threefold increase in heart disease among men but a three- to sevenfold increase in women,"
says Lori Mosca, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at New YorkPresbyterian Hospital. What's more, high triglycerides
(blood fats) and low HDL (the "good" cholesterol) are stronger predictors of cardiovascular disease in women than in men.
Hormonal issues, such as premature or surgical menopause without
hormone-replacement therapy or using oral contraceptives if you're over 35 and are a smoker, can also increase a woman's risk.
Symptoms of heart attack or angina can also
be different in women than in men, which is one of the reasons why the disease often goes undiagnosed. While chest pain is
the most common symptom of heart trouble in both sexes, women are more likely to suffer from shortness of breath, nausea,
fatigue or jaw pain, says Dr. Mosca. And since a heart attack can manifest itself as more of an uncomfortable tightness or
heaviness than a sharp pain, the experience may pale next to the agony of childbirth and thus go unchecked, notes Robertson.
That's why it's essential that women heed symptoms and seek treatment, especially if pain or tightness in the chest lasts
longer than five minutes. "Forty percent of women who have their first heart attack die of it," Mosca says. "There's no second
chance for them."
What Is It?
a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration and weakening of bone tissue. If not prevented or if
left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, typically
occur in the hip, spine or wrist.
Osteoporosis is a major public health threat.
10 million Americans already have osteoporosis, and 18 million more have low bone mass, which puts them at increased risk
for the disease. Eighty percent of osteoporosis patients are women.
With proper treatment, the effects of osteoporosis
can be dramatically reduced.
Osteoporosis is often
called the "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until
their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra to collapse.
Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or
seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as stooped posture.
Certain people are
more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease include:
- Being female
- Being Caucasian or Asian, although African
Americans and Hispanic Americans are at significant risk as well
- Having a thin and/or small frame
- Advancing age
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Being post-menopausal, including early or surgically
induced menopause. Women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause, making them
more susceptible to osteoporosis.
- The abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
- Anorexia nervosa or bulimia
- Having a diet low in calcium
- Using certain medications, such as corticosteroids
- Low testosterone levels in men
- An inactive lifestyle
- Cigarette smoking
- Excessive use of alcohol
Osteoporosis can also
be diagnosed using specialized tests that measure bone density in various sites of the body. A bone density test can:
- Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
- Predict your chances of fracturing bones in
- Determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor
the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more
Make Your Smile Sparkle
Six ways to keep your teeth
and gums in stellar form!
Need a quick mood boost? Try smiling. Research
has shown that flashing a toothy grin even when you don't particularly feel like it can make you feel great. And it can make
others feel good about you, too, says Elaine Blechman, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado. "When you
smile, people are more likely to perceive you as friendly, confident and outgoing," she reports.
But cavities, gingivitis and not-so-pearly whites
can put a frown on your face. That's why keeping your teeth and gums healthy is so important, says Kimberly Harms, D.D.S.,
a consumer adviser at the American Dental Association. Toothpaste alone won't give you a sparkling smile, but Dr. Harms shares
six steps that will do the job.
'em clean. Brush at least twice a day to remove plaque, which causes tooth decay and gum disease. And don't forget
to floss! According to a recent Johnson & Johnson survey, only 66% of women do so regularly. "Flossing is essential to
stop cavities from forming between the teeth," says Harms. Mouthwash won't get your teeth clean, but some rinses, such as
ACT,® contain fluoride, which can strengthen them and help prevent future decay.
tool-savvy. Arm yourself with a soft toothbrush, toothpaste with fluoride and dental floss. If you hate brushing your
teeth, invest in an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, which can help you do more cleaning in less time. And if it's
difficult to fit dental floss between your teeth, minimize discomfort and bleeding by using a type that's waxed, or dental
tape instead of string floss. Also, look for products that have the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, which
means they have been independently tested by the professional organization, or ask your dentist to recommend specific products
that will work for you.
your technique. Want to be a better brusher? Follow these steps:
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and
gently brush back and forth, using short strokes.
- Brush for three minutes, which is about the
length of a song on the radio. (According to the American Dental Association, most people brush for less than one minute.)
- Take time to scrub your tongue. Bad breathcausing
bacteria like to hide out there.
- Avoid over-brushing. More than three or four
times a day can wear down tooth enamel and irritate gums.
- Wrap 18 inches of floss around your middle
or index finger, or both.
- Slide the floss between your teeth.
- Curve the floss around the tooth in a C shape
- Gently move the floss up and down.
- Use a new section of the floss for each tooth
so you don't transfer food debris.
all-day snacking and sipping. Foods that are high in acid, sugar or carbohydrates such as lemons, candy or potato chips
can cause plaque and decay. However, Harms says that the biggest problem is not what people eat, but how often. "The more
you snack, the more you expose your teeth to acid and plaque-causing agents," she says. Since brushing your teeth every 10
minutes isn't plausible (and can damage enamel), your best bet is to stick to just one or two snacks a day and trade soda
for water, which is also smart for your health.
your dentist regularly. Six-month checkups are important, because your dentist can give your teeth a professional cleaning
and will spot dental problems that may not be visible to the eye. If you have a toothache, make an appointment right away.
"Dental decay is always progressive. When you have a cavity, it only gets bigger," says Harms.
Consider seeing the
dentist more frequently if you are:
- Pregnant. Hormones can lead to a condition
called pregnancy gingivitis, which has been linked to preterm labor and low birth weight. It's important to be diligent about
brushing and flossing every day.
- Taking mouth-drying medications. Certain medications
including some that treat depression, high blood pressure and allergies can cause dry mouth, which can damage your teeth.
"Saliva has antiseptic properties that keep bacteria under control, so when your saliva decreases, the level of decay goes
up dramatically," says Harms.
- A smoker. According to the National Cancer
Institute, tobacco use accounts for 80% to 90% of oral cancers. And smokers are more prone to have gum disease, bad breath
and tooth discoloration, adds Harms.
out for serious symptoms. Both canker sores and oral cancer appear as white, ulcerated lesions. So how can you tell
the difference? You can't. "If you have a sore in your mouth and it doesn't go away within 10 days to two weeks, have it checked
by your dentist," says Harms. If detected early, oral cancer can be treated through surgery, radiation or medication.
Kicking the Habit
The single most important
thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. Turn over a new leaf and say no to tobacco!
For die-hard smokers, saying no to cigarettes
is about as tough as it gets. Take it from Lifetime Online community member wjharden, who posts, "I'm thinking about quitting,
but I'm going through a lot of things at the moment...so maybe this isn't the right time. Any suggestions?"
The best advice: Don't put off quitting, even
if you're stressed. As psychologist Edwin Fisher, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, medicine and pediatrics at Washington
University, and a consultant for the American Lung Association, notes, "Fifty percent of all adults who have smoked have quit,
including millions who were heavily addicted."
Still, you're more likely to stick with your
cigarette ban if you follow a few surefire strategies. Here are key kick-the-habit tricks:
Step 1: Pick a quit date, preferably
one that's meaningful to you, such as a birthday or the beginning of a new year. It's a good idea to swear off cigarettes
at a time when your life is relatively calm although waiting until you feel completely stress-free may be unrealistic,
not to mention an excuse to keep lighting up.
Step 2: Prep yourself. A few weeks
before your quit date, think about and jot down your reasons for wanting to quit. Keep the list handy so you can refer back
to it at moments when your resolve weakens. Two weeks or so before the big day, start a diary of how much you smoke, noting
when and what seems to trigger the urge. (Identifying your triggers can help you head off temptation once you quit.) If, for
instance, you tend to smoke when you're out socializing with friends in bars and restaurants, you may want to avoid these
types of activities for a while.
Step 3: Indulge in some chemical
assistance. Going it alone is only for the truly brave or stupid. Whether you opt for medications such as nicotine replacement
therapy, the antidepressant buproprion or a formal smoking cessation program, extra help can make life without cigarettes
Step 4: Get a little help from your
friends. When it comes to quitting, "most people fare better with some coaching," says Linda Hyder Ferry, M.D., M.P.H., president
of the Foundation for Innovations in Nicotine Dependence and associate professor of preventive and family medicine at Loma
Linda University in California. Ask friends and family to avoid lighting up around you. Find an ex-cigarette junkie to call
on when you're in need of a post-quitting pep talk.
Step 5: Go cold turkey. The majority
of experts agree that it's the most effective way to go. So when the chosen day arrives, toss your cigarettes even the secret
stash behind the hamper. If you can get through the first two weeks without a slipup, you've got a good chance of staying
smoke-free. According to Linda Hyder Ferry, M.D., M.P.H., cravings during the first three to four days are the most powerful;
on days five to 10, the intensity plateaus, and after that, the hunger for nicotine begins to dwindle. That's when you'll
begin to feel better. Really.
Step 6: Shake up your routine. If
you always take a butt break with co-workers at lunch, or reach for a ciggie after dinner, change your routine. Take a walk
instead of going for a group smoke, and try a few other activities that are incompatible with smoking, such as swimming and
cycling. "Exercise will make you feel better about living a healthy life and you won't want to undermine your new habits by
smoking," says Dr. Fisher.
Step 7: Don't beat yourself up.
Most people quit and relapse several times before they stop smoking for good, so don't be too hard on yourself if you cheat.
If you find you're stuck in a pattern of starting and stopping, however, you may want to see a counselor and be evaluated
for depression. According to behavior modification specialist Paula Djabbarah, who runs the smoking-cessation program at Presbyterian
Hospital of Dallas, some people who find quitting especially tough are actually depressed and don't know it. "Dopamine [one
of the body's natural mood-balancers] is released every time you take a drag on a cigarette," she explains. "People who smoke
may be doing so to offset depression." Once you treat the depression, kicking the habit may get easier.