You don't need to become a super athlete or go on a very strict diet to protect your heart and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Every woman can take steps every day toward a more heart-healthy lifestyle. And the best part is that being more heart-healthy also lowers your risk of other diseases like cancer and diabetes.
For the most health benefits, you need to get enough aerobic activity to get your heart pumping and do muscle-strengthening activities every week. (Always check with your doctor before starting any regular exercise you are not used to doing.)
You should get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, on most days of the week. The 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity don't have to be all at one time. You can break it up into 10-minute activities throughout the day.
The Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that each week, women get at least:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as a brisk walk
- 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as running
- A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days
Learn more about how to be active for health.
Eat healthy foods
Making unhealthy food choices can lead to weight gain. But that is not the only risk. Unhealthy eating affects your arteries, blood pressure, glucose level, and many other parts of your heart health. Talk to your doctor or nurse about a heart-healthy eating plan that lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Keep a healthy weight
Reaching and staying at a healthy weight will lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you already have heart disease, a healthy weight will help you control your disease and prevent heart attack. A slow and steady weight loss is the best way to lose weight and keep it off. Talk to your doctor about how much weight you need to lose and the best ways to do it. Learn more in our Healthy Weight section.
Know your heart disease numbers
Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) and blood sugar levels. Most insurance plans must cover these tests at no cost to you. These tests will give you important information about your heart health. Your doctor can tell you what your numbers mean and what you need to do to protect your heart.
Know the symptoms of heart attack and stroke
All women need to know the symptoms of heart attack and stroke and what to do. Make sure your friends and loved ones know how to recognize the symptoms too. If you think you are having a heart attack or stroke, call 911.
Knowing the symptoms and getting help quickly can help you survive a heart attack or stroke and make a full recovery.
If you smoke, get the help you need to quit. Start by visiting women.smokefree.gov for woman-specific information, tips, and tools.
Limit your alcohol use
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, this means no more than one drink per day.
"One drink" is:
- A glass of wine (5 ounces)
- A can of beer (12 ounces)
- A shot of liquor (1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor)
If you don't already drink, don't start drinking for any reason. Moderate drinking is also linked to breast cancer, violence, and injuries. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.
Take care of yourself
Stress, anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep can raise your risk of heart disease. Take care of yourself with these steps:
- Get enough sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Don't stress. Keep stress in check by taking time each day to relax and unwind.
- Treat mental health problems. Get help if you have trouble coping because of depression, anxiety, or other health problems.
- Make a well-woman visit. Make an appointment with your doctor for an annual well-woman visit.
Did we answer your question about heart disease and stroke prevention?
For more information about heart disease prevention, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or check out the following resources from other organizations:
- Aspirin for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke: Know the Facts — Information from the Food and Drug Administration
- ChooseMyPlate.gov — Nutrition information based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Five Medication-Free Strategies to Help Prevent Heart Disease — Information from the Mayo Clinic