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Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the United States[*]. Heart attacks claim the lives of more than 500,000 women every year, and related cardiovascular issues like strokes are another leading cause of death.
I don’t want to alarm you, but you should know about these statistics. They always make me incredibly sad, because the vast majority of heart attacks are preventable, and a few simple diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way toward keeping your heart healthy throughout your entire life.
As an integrative physician, I’ve spent the last decade working with thousands of women, many of whom have lowered their heart disease risk and reversed early symptoms of cardiovascular problems.
Your heart health is within your hands. Here are my top ways to prevent heart attacks naturally and keep your circulatory system healthy well into old age.
5 ways to keep your heart healthy
There are a lot of different ways to reduce your heart attack risk naturally, and you can start all of them today. Of course, if you’re already on heart medication, definitely do not stop taking it. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes and how they can benefit your heart.
These are my five favorite tips for preventing heart attacks.
Magnesium is one of the most essential minerals in cardiovascular tissue. It keeps cardiovascular cell membranes functioning smoothly, turns on your antioxidant pathways (possibly preventing plaque buildup in your arteries), and supports your mitochondria, the power plants of your cells. That last one is especially important, because mitochondria make up 40% of every heart muscle cell. If your mitochondria start to weaken, it can spell trouble for your heart.
A lot of people are deficient in magnesium, and more than 40% of people who have heart attacks have low blood magnesium levels . Higher magnesium levels decrease your risk of heart attack.
Magnesium is good for more than your heart, too. It relieves stress and can help you sleep. I recommend taking 400mg of magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate every night, an hour before bed. This is the simplest, lowest-effort way to support a healthy heart.
Get a good night’s rest
Women who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night have a 20% higher risk of heart disease than women who sleep 6-9 hours a night .
You want to make sure you’re getting enough deep, restorative sleep every night. Sleep is your body’s chance to repair itself and ease stress. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
And if you get a lot of light in your bedroom at night, invest in some blackout curtains. Light will make it harder for you to fall asleep and will keep you from reaching the deeper stages of sleep . Ideally, your room should be dark enough that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
If you have trouble falling asleep or you wake up a lot at night, Sleep Savior may help. It’s a natural, drug-free sleep aid that I formulated specifically for women who have trouble sleeping.
Find emotional balance
In Ayurvedic tradition, practitioners are taught that heart issues are emotional as well as physical. Western medicine agrees: psychological stress is a major risk factor for heart disease .
Make time during your day to practice self-care and self-love. It can be meditation, massage, reading, going for a walk in nature — whatever makes you feel restored and connected to yourself. Life can get far too hectic in our modern world. It’s essential to make some “you” time for at least an hour or two a day.
About 16% of Americans smoke cigarettes . If you’re one of them, it’s time to stop. Smoking is incredibly damaging to your lungs, arteries, heart, and just about every other part of you. It’s one of the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
The good news is that you have more options than ever before when it comes to quitting. Talk to your doctor about cessation aids and strategies and figure out what works best for you. It may help to know that cigarette cravings only last 3-5 minutes, and they fall off rapidly during the first 30 days after you quit . Take your cravings one at a time and work with a health professional to quit smoking for good.
Cut back on sugar
Sugar consumption is a major driver of heart disease. It contributes to inflammation and artery-blocking plaque, and eating too much sugar can cause weight gain, diabetes, and other heart attack risk factors .
Replace sugar and refined carbs with healthy fats like olive oil, wild salmon, eggs, or grass-fed beef. You can also swap in whole grains if they agree with you, although many people find they do better on a grain-free diet.
Either way, eating less sugar is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
Improve your heart health today
You can start these diet and lifestyle changes today. You don’t have to do them all at once — pick one and add it to your daily routine. These steps to better health won’t just help your heart, either; you may find you also have better energy, mental clarity, and overall quality of life.
And if you want more health and lifestyle tips that are personalized to you, try taking my Power Type Quiz. After you answer a few questions about your unique biology, it will tell you exactly what you can do to look and feel like your best self.
- DiNicolantonio, J. J., Liu, J., & O’Keefe, J. H. (2018). Magnesium for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/2/e000775
- Daghlas, I. et al (2019). Sleep duration and myocardial infarction. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109719359492
- Tähkämö, L., Partonen, T., & Pesonen, A. K. (2019). Systematic review of light exposure impact on human circadian rhythm. Chronobiology international, 36(2), 151-170. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30311830
- Dimsdale, J. E. (2008). Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51(13), 1237-1246. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633295/
- Center for Disease Control. Smoking rate stastics. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0118-smoking-rates-declining.html
- DiNicolantonio, J. J., & OKeefe, J. H. (2017). Added sugars drive coronary heart disease via insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia: a new paradigm. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5708308/