Love your heart. It’ll love ya back.
Today, your heart will beat more than 103,000 times—that’s nearly 38 million times a year—without skipping a beat. Whether you’re asleep or awake, running a marathon or sitting on the sofa, your heart just keeps on doing it’s thing. The trick is to not take it for granted. Start taking care of your heart today, so it can keep taking care of you.
Learn More about Your Heart and Your Health
Awareness & Prevention
Considering how hard the human heart works, and how many of us really do take it for granted, it’s no surprise that coronary heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. today. It’s also the #1 cause of death among GLBT people. And members of the GLBT community are at an even greater risk of heart disease than the general population. But don’t despair. There is actually a lot you can do to keep your heart ticking healthier, stronger, and longer.
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be split into two categories: Those you can control and those you can’t. Some of the risk factors for heart disease have to do with habits, such as smoking and eating high-fat, low-fiber foods. Others are simply passed along to you at birth. So while you can’t determine every risk factor for yourself, there is plenty you can do to make simple changes that can quickly and dramatically lessen the risk of heart disease.
FIRST, THE FACTORS YOU CAN’T CONTROL:
- Increasing age: More than 80% of the people who die from coronary disease are 65 or older.
- Sex: Men are at greater risk of heart attacks than women. Men also tend to have heart attacks at a younger age than women. This is just as true for folks who identify in our community as it is for heterosexuals.
- Heredity: Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves. Furthermore, some ethnic groups (e.g., African Americans) are at greater risk of heart disease.
NOW, WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL:
- Smoking: A smokers’ risk of developing coronary heart disease is two to four times that of a nonsmoker’s.
- High blood cholesterol: As blood cholesterol levels rise, so does the risk for cardiovascular disease.
- High blood pressure: Contributes to heart attacks and heart failure, as well as other diseases you’ll want to avoid.
- Physical inactivity: Contributes to coronary heart disease risk.
- Obesity: A major risk factor for heart disease and heart attack.
- Diabetes: Increases cardiovascular disease risk by two to four times. Approximately three-fourths of people who have diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Now comes the good news. Here’s how to get started in your fight against heart disease.
Get a physical exam. Your doctor will check things like your blood pressure, your cholesterol and your weight, and will also talk to you about your diet and your current exercise level. If your doctor recommends any treatments (such as medication to manage high blood pressure), you can discuss those and make any necessary decisions.
If you’re a smoker, stop smoking. This is where GLBT people’s risk goes up significantly, because there’s a much higher incidence of smoking in the GLBT population than among the general population. With the right help, quitting is easier than you’d think. Click here to see some of the great, free resources available that really do work. Quitting smoking his is the single most positive thing you can do for your health—not just for your heart.
If you are overweight, lose weight. It’s common for high blood pressure and extra body weight to go hand-in-hand, and a greater percentage of lesbians than straight women are overweight and eat diets that are high in fatty, low-fiber foods. Both the extra weight and the high blood pressure put an extra strain on the heart. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your doctor.
Get regular physical activity. Thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, at least three days a week, goes a long way.
Limit your intake of sodium. Go easy on the salt; it raises your blood pressure.
Avoid excessive alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and even lead to stroke. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day.
Get your blood cholesterol levels tested regularly.
High levels of “bad” cholesterol, can be modified through diet and medication. Talk to your doctor about how to keep your “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels in balance.
Eat a diet that’s high in fiber and low in saturated fats. We promise; there are lots of tasty foods out there that fit this description. Here is a link for just a few.