Preventing heart disease and stroke

There are steps women can take to protect our hearts and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke.  

Quitting smoking

This is a big one: nicotine has been shown to constrict blood vessels and vastly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Even quitting later in life has been shown to significantly reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. 

This video explains how smoking increases our risk of heart attack.  

Eating for wellbeing

Reducing salt, saturated fats and added sugars is important; so is eating more fruit and vegetables.  

Lowering your alcohol consumption is also helpful (and knowing how much is recommended is also important). For more on how this topic, see our section on Eating for women’s wellbeing. 

Physical activity

Doing regular physical activity, such as 30 minutes of walking 5 days per week, goes a long way towards improving your cardiovascular health.

If this is not something you feel you can do yet, start with smaller goals: we cover many ways older women can stay active in our section on Physical activity. 

Reducing stress levels

There are a few ways we can learn how to manage stress, including through meditation, physical activity, and talking to friends, family or a professional counsellor. You can read more in our section on mental health.

Regular visits to the doctor

Illustration in preventing heart disease and stroke

Visit your doctor regularly, especially if you have health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes which can make heart problems more likely. Ask your doctor about your heart’s health. 

It’s important to talk about things like past problems during pregnancy, when you started menopause, and if your family had heart problems. Also, get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. 

You can lower your chances of heart problems by learning about them and treating issues like high cholesterol. It’s good to know the signs of heart problems too. 

If you think you might be having a heart attack, it’s very important to get help right away. 

And finally, given what we know about women’s heart disease not being diagnosed as often as men, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion if you feel that your concerns are not being listened to. 


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