Your cardiovascular disease risk increases as you get older, especially after menopause. For example, you are more likely to have high blood pressure and glucose intolerance (a risk factor for diabetes). Also, a recent study suggests that women who become menopausal before age 45 have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. No matter when you begin menopause, focus on factors you can change—adopt a healthier lifestyle to lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and other health issues. It’s never too late to start.
- Lose excess body weight – Being overweight can raise your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and put you at risk for type 2 diabetes.
- If you smoke or use tobacco, quit – Smoking and tobacco use can harm your heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk for heart disease and making a stroke more likely.
- Get active – Strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to- vigorous exercise five days a week. Exercise is great for your heart and blood vessels and helps you lose weight, control cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure.
- Focus on healthy food – Eat more heart-healthy vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Limit salt and added sugars, which can affect your blood pressure and arteries. Watch your intake of full-fat dairy, fatty meats and partially hydrogenated oils—these are sources of unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats, which damage arteries.
- Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day – Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase your risk for health problems, including stroke. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof spirits.