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7 Top Ways To Improve Your Heart Health

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"It looks like you may have had a heart attack," said doctor S as she read the EKG during my annual checkup in December.

"OMG! Are you kidding me?" I gasped. I grew faint. I thought about all the stomach and chest pains I had experienced throughout the year. I wondered if indeed one might have been a heart attack instead of indigestion or muscle spasm.

"I don't see any report on your previous EKG from your cardiologist," said doctor S. "This EKG looks different than the one from a few years ago. I'm going to fax it to your cardiologist's office and see what they say. Stay calm."

Stay calm. Stay calm. Are you kidding me! I put my head down on the table and practiced mindfulness meditation. Breathe in. Breathe out. This potential news hit hard. For the past six years since losing my husband I'd been trying to mend my broken heart, but what if what the doctor said was true? What if my heart was forever damaged? Breathe in. Breathe out.

After what seemed like the longest 30 minutes ever, doctor S returned. "I'm pleased to report that your cardiologist's office reviewed the EKG and the findings are NEGATIVE," said doctor S.

Ohm, ohm, ohm! Ahh, ahh, ahh!

In January, I saw my cardiologist doctor P to confirm the findings. She said that sometimes doctors who are not used to reading EKGs can misread them. Dr. P suggested I have a stress test to double check my heart since I had been having a few flutters and also have an eco and carotid doppler to review my arteries for any clogs. The results were all NEGATIVE.

Ohm, ohm, ohm! Ahh, ahh, ahh!

February Go Red For Women

This month, the American Heart Association celebrates Go Red For Women to raise awareness of the fight against heart disease -- the number one killer of women, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

Menopause doesn't help matters either. According to the Penn Medicine blog, "the decrease in estrogen caused by menopause has multiple negative effects on the female cardiovascular system including: changes in the walls of arteries and blood vessels which makes plaque and blood clots more likely to form; increased fibrinogen levels which make blood clots more likely to form and narrow the arteries; a decrease in HDL -- or "good cholesterol" -- and an increase in LDL or "bad cholesterol."

Are boomer women doomed? No, no, no. However, heed the warning and make sure you have your cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure under control. I try to get annual checkups and I'm glad I do.

Penn Medicine Heart & Vascular Center reminds women to take action to improve heart health with "Life's Simple 7," including:

1. Get active. (I do yoga, bike and walk. What exercise do you do?)
2. Lose weight. (I try to watch my weight. The scale is part of my daily routine and I have a digital scale so I can see the numbers without my specs!)
3. Reduce blood sugar. (My glucose number was 95 this year. It's inching up there. Better watch it.)
4. Stop smoking. (Never smoked and never will.)
5. Manage blood pressure. (All good -- stress levels under control.)
6. Control cholesterol. (My total cholesterol is on the high side at 245. Bad cholesterol is high too with an LDL of 148. Good cholesterol or HDL is 80. I'm allergic to statins, so I have to manage my cholesterol with diet and exercise for now. Maybe one day there will be a new medication that I can take instead of statins.)
7. Eat better. (I watch my fat consumption, use olive oil when I cook, eat lots of fish with Omega-3s and take fish oil supplements. The Mediterranean diet is supposed to be good for you.)

The American Heart Association recommends knowing your risk and getting regular checkups. As women, we tend to be caregivers to others and oftentimes do not take care of ourselves. AHA offers a Go Red Heart CheckUp to assess your main cardiovascular health risk factors. It only takes a few minutes and along with your results, you'll receive a Personal Action Plan. I took the assessment and found it very helpful. My risk for heart disease was low.

February 7th is National Wear Red Day to raise awareness of heart disease in women. So glad I didn't have a heart attack. I'm going to drape my red pashima across my chest. It's time to continue strengthening my spiritual heart and celebrate every moment of every day. As Helen Keller said, "The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart."

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Five Things You Should Never Eat (And What To Eat Instead)
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