NAPLES, Fla. — February is American Heart Month, so Fox 4 talked to a Non-Invasive Cardiologist at the NCH Heart Institute about the four things to know to support women's heart health.
Dr. Shona Velamakanni said women in their 50s and 60s need to be aware of their blood pressure.
"Basically, in most of a woman’s early life, their blood pressure is very well-controlled. But as they are approaching menopause and beyond menopause, their risk for high blood pressure really increases. So it’s important for them to know their numbers and check their blood pressure periodically. We diagnose high blood pressure as anything higher than 120 over 80. When the numbers start to go up, that’s really when they need to see their doctor and start looking at interventions to control their blood pressure," Dr. Velamakanni said.
She said you’ll get the most accurate blood pressure reading by going to the doctor, but you can also check at your local grocery store or pharmacy. If high blood pressure is an issue for you, she said you can buy an arm cuff so you can check it more often.
When it comes to heart health, is there such thing as too much exercise? Dr. Velamakanni said there is.
"The recommended amount of exercise — per the American Heart Association — is about 150 minutes per week, so about 30 minutes, five times a week would be great. More than that, when it’s over several hours of cardio throughout the week, it can actually tax your body and cause more inflammation. There’s data showing overexercising can be as difficult on your body as someone who’s very sedentary," she said.
Dr. Velamakanni also said diet is key to maintaining a healthy heart.
"I usually ask my patients to make sure they’re getting enough fruits and vegetables, lean meats. We really want to avoid processed foods as much as possible. We want to make sure we’re looking at labels any time we can. We want to look at the sodium content, the sugar content, and the saturated fat content and try to minimize all those categories," she said.
She recommends the Mediterranean Diet — fish, lean meats, avocados and other fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
When you think of heart health, you might not think of sleep. But Dr. Velamakanni said it's very important to maintaining a healthy heart.
“Unfortunately, women especially tend to undervalue sleep. And it’s a very important part of not only maintaining your emotional health, but your heart heath as well. So we advocate getting at least 7 hours ideally, but six is a minimum. So if there’s any issues with sleep, you definitely should see your doctor, because frequent awakening and not enough sleep can definitely have negative effects on your heart," she said.
She recommends turning off any bright lights 30 minutes before you go to sleep, making sure your room is dark and quiet, and keeping your thermostat where you sleep set at 72 degrees or colder to help you get into a deeper sleep.
Scroll through the videos above to learn more information about women's heart health.