Every 80 seconds, a woman suffers a heart attack in the United States. Many women think of heart disease as a man's health problem, but one in three women die of cardiovascular diseases and stroke each year. Younger women are becoming more at risk too.

When it comes to heart health, you have the power to change the future for yourself and your loved ones. Take these steps to reduce your risk of heart disease today.

1. Be aware of your numbers.
We memorize a lot of numbers in our daily lives, and your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose numbers are some of the most vital ones to know. High levels are major risk factors for heart disease. Be familiar with what’s normal for you, and get your levels checked every year or every few years, depending on your risk factors. Attend our Women Love Your Heart event on Saturday, February 4 for free screenings and more.

2. Know your risk factors and take action.

  • Say goodbye to cigarettes – real and electronic. The benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh continuing the habit. Make a quit plan today.
  • Are you active enough? A sedentary lifestyle contributes to heart disease. Walk for a 30 minutes each day. Take the stairs for a boost of exercise. Listen to music and make household chores into a work out. Sign up for an exercise class with the WVU Medicine Wellness Center.
  • Women with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease than men. Manage your condition effectively with diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices. Try our wellness classes for extra support.
  • Women with inflammatory diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, may also have a higher risk of heart disease. Your diet can increase swelling or pain in your joints (inflammation); add more anti-inflammatory foods like avocado, berries, or sweet potatoes to your plate.

3. Stress less.
Easier than it sounds, right? But a few deep breaths can go a long way. Try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. Aim to get more rest if you’re feeling overworked. Even if it’s a quick power nap, it can help you rejuvenate. Try pet therapy by visiting a friend’s or family member’s pet or consider adopting your own. If you’re feeling lasting depression or anxiety that affects your daily routine and relationships, talk to a behavioral medicine provider.

4. Make it a priority to enjoy yourself and others.
Spending time with people you love can help lower your blood pressure and make you feel more relaxed. A warm hug releases a feel-good hormone called oxytocin, which helps reduce stress. Don’t just text LOL – laugh out loud more often. Watch a hilarious comedy. Goof off with a good friend or family member. Take silly pictures with a photo booth app on your phone.

5. Add more optimism to your routine.
Your attitude can impact your physical health too, so aim to keep it positive. Read or watch something funny for a few minutes in the morning to add some lightheartedness to your day. Listen to a motivating audiobook or podcast on your daily commute. Write down or think about five things you have to be grateful for each day.

This blog is approved by Bryan Raybuck, MD, of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute.