Nearly 40 percent of women, age 20 and older, have some form of heart disease. To keep your heart strong, you have to focus on cholesterol and blood pressure.
The ideal total cholesterol level is under 200 mg/dL if your level is above 240 mg/dL try to eliminate trans fats and alcohol. If your BMI is on the high side, try to lose some weight (dropping as little as 5 percent of your weight can help raise HDL and even out your overall cholesterol). Ideally, your LDL (bad) cholesterol should be under 100 mg/dL and HDL (good) cholesterol above 60 mg/dL. The worst type of fat for your heart, especially if you’re a woman are triglycerides (triglycerides under 150 mg/dL is ideal).
Blood pressure is another measure to help monitor your heart health. The top number (systolic) measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart beats; the bottom number (diastolic) measures that pressure between beats. A blood pressure under 120/80 is ideal. If you have high blood pressure, limit salt to less than 1,500 milligrams per day, reduce stress and stop smoking (each cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your blood pressure).
Steps to Optimize Your Cholesterol
For more: Dr. Hyman on Heart Health.
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