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Heart health tips for women

Having their blood pressure routinely checked is one way women can protect the long-term health of their hearts.

Heart disease may be something most commonly associated with men, but it can be deadly for women as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is to blame for one in every four female deaths in the United States. Recognizing the threat that heart disease poses is a great first step for women who want to avoid becoming one of the hundreds of thousands of women who lose their lives to heart disease each year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following advice to women looking to prioritize their heart health.

1. Consume a heart-friendly diet

Thanks to food labels, it's easier than ever for women to consume heart-healthy diets. When examining labels, look for foods that are low in sodium and sugar. When planning meals, avoid foods that are high in trans fats. In 2015, the FDA ruled that trans fats were not recognized as safe for use in human foods and gave manufacturers three years to remove them from their products. At press time, no such ban exists in Canada, though information regarding trans fats must be included on Canadian food labels. The Cleveland Clinic advises consumers to check labels for "partially hydrogenated oils," which are a hidden source of trans fats. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic notes that foods such as cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits, microwavable breakfast sandwiches, and many types of crackers contain trans fats.

2. Take existing conditions seriously

Certain conditions can increase a woman's risk for heart disease. While women may not be able to turn back the clocks and prevent these conditions from developing, they can take them for the serious threat they are and do their best to manage them. High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can increase a woman's risk for heart disease.

Take medications as directed, monitor blood sugar levels if you have diabetes and routinely have your blood pressure and cholesterol tested to ensure any preexisting conditions are not increasing your risk for heart disease.

3. Discuss aspirin intake

The FDA notes that many physicians prescribe aspirin to lower patients' risk of heart disease, clot-related strokes and other problems related to cardiovascular disease. However, there are risks associated with long-term aspirin use, and such risks should be discussed with a physician. According to the FDA, bleeding in the stomach, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, and certain types of stroke are some of the potential side effects of long-term aspirin use. Such side effects may never appear, but the risk that they might makes discussing the pros and cons of aspirin well worth it.

Women can learn more about heart disease by visiting http://www.fda.gov.