One in three women dies every year from heart disease—that’s about one life lost every minute. The truth is that women’s heart health has a long way to go. Not enough women are aware of the risk that this devastating yet preventable disease poses to their health and well-being, thanks in part to the lack of understanding of the differences that exist between the presentation of symptoms in men and women, even by medical professionals.

The unfortunate thing is this: about 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events that women experience annually—women as young as 20 years old—is preventable, which is why spreading awareness of the lifestyle changes needed to combat this disease is so important. So set aside some time this month to evaluate your heart health by visiting your doctor, and take action to reduce your risk for heart-related illness by learning a few healthy ways to fight against the risk factors that lead to poor heart health.

Stress Management

Many health factors lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions, but high blood pressure is among the most prevalent and manageable causes. However, high blood pressure presents no symptoms, so it is important to get regular blood pressure readings to maintain a healthy level, less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. Since chronic stress can severely damage artery walls as it raises blood pressure, consciously and habitually managing your stress levels can help reduce your risk. Several stress management treatments, such as acupuncture, can help you reduce the wear caused by high blood pressure and put you on the path to health.

Quality and Quantity of Sleep

Most adults need between six and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, depending on age and personal need. Too much or too little sleep can cause cardiovascular problems. There is no substitute for sleep. In fact, trying to cope with sleep deprivation through the use of stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks can lead to other risk factors. Just as adrenaline from stress affects the cardiovascular system, caffeine also causes a spike in heart rate and blood pressure. You can improve your sleep habits by avoiding caffeine, exercising three to four times per week, and establishing a pre-bedtime routine.

Nutrition and Diet

Maintaining a nutritionally-rich diet is essential to your health. Abstaining from high-calorie food and drink such as soda and candy will not only help you lose weight, which contributes significantly to lowering blood pressure, but it will also help you get the nutrients that your body actually needs. Eating a heart-healthy diet along with exercise will also help to lower your cholesterol, another significant cause of heart disease and cardiovascular problems.

Take Action

Knowing your risks for poor cardiovascular health will give you the tools you need to avoid or manage heart disease, but if you don’t make changes, that knowledge doesn’t help anyone. Take action today by putting into practice what you’ve just learned. If you need help managing your stress levels, improving your quality of sleep, or maintaining or losing weight, call Dr. Litman at Longevity Acupuncture. She and her team will use their expertise to treat the cause of your symptoms and help you achieve a healthy heart this February.