Hey gals, have a (healthy) heart

When I go to the gym and get my vitals checked, the first two things I look at — before my weight, before my percentage of body fat, before my BMI — are my blood pressure and pulse. I figure if my resting heart rate is low (typically in the low 50s, though I long for the day when I dip into the upper 40s and achieve “athlete” status) and my blood pressure is good (I shoot for 110/70). Not bad numbers for a 54-year-old guy.

Like a lot of guys, I was motivated years ago to lead an aerobic, heart-healthy life based on a family history of heart disease. Male family members on both sides went before their time because of heart attacks. For my dad’s generation, a heart attack was considered an almost inevitable rite of passage. I wanted to bypass the bypass, to live long and be active, so I paid attention early on. In a way, being a guy I was fortunate to have this heads-up at an early age.

Unfortunately, while heart attacks used to be a guy thing, they have, of late, become equal opportunity debilitators. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women 20 and older, according to the American Heart Association. One of three women die of heart disease compared to 1 in 30 who die of breast cancer, more women die of heart disease than from the next four causes of death combined, 90 percent of women exhibit one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. Not good numbers.

There is, however, one good number, according to the AHA: 80. That’s the percent of “cardiac events” in women that could be prevented through diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.

Willing to take your chances that you’re in the 10 percent of women not exhibiting one or more of the risk factors for heart disease? Why not be 100 percent sure of that 10 percent by taking five minutes to run through this list of risk factors complied by the American Heart Association.

And if it turns out you’re not exempt, take a few more minutes and visit GoRedForWomen.org, a  site created by the American Heart Association devoted to informing the 90 percent of women at risk about how they can reduce that risk. Even if you are one of the fortunate 10 percent, visit the site anyway: there’s a 30-second video clip featuring Betty White. And 30 seconds with Betty White can only do your heart good.

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