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Heart Health Tips from Dr. Oz

Perhaps you already know that heart disease kills more women than breast cancer -- more than all cancers combined, in fact. What you may not have heard is that the number of middle-aged women having heart attacks is on the rise. The good news: Heart disease is preventable if you make simple lifestyle changes. Dr. Oz is on call to teach you how.
What a Woman's Heart Attack Looks Like
Dr. Oz
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Sony Pictures Television/Robert Trachtenberg

It's not that women don't get chest pain during a heart attack. We can, although often women describe the sensation more as achiness, tightness, or pressure than as pain. But we're also more likely to experience other symptoms. While chest pain was the most common symptom for both men and women, according to a Swedish study of 225 first-time heart attack patients, women were more apt to report nausea, back pain, dizziness, and palpitations. Women were three times as likely as men to experience more than three heart attack symptoms at once. "Even doctors sometimes mistake women's symptoms for indigestion, heartburn, or the flu," says Dr. Oz.

Two Big Diet Fixes—Make 'Em Today!

Eat Less Sugar

Sugar hurts us in two ways, says Dr. Oz. First, the sugar molecule itself is like a jagged piece of glass that scrapes up the arteries as it travels through your bloodstream. That scarring catches plaque, allowing it to build up and narrow the arteries. Second, because sugar is stored as fat, it leads to weight gain, particularly around the belly. Most Americans take in about 22 teaspoons of sugar every day. Much of that comes from sodas and fruit drinks. Other sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup, lurk in unlikely places, such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressing. The American Heart Association now recommends that women limit added sugar consumption to 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) a day, with no more than 450 calories a week coming from sugary drinks. That's less than half a 12-ounce can of regular soda a day. Dr. Oz's rule: "If high fructose corn syrup is one of the first five ingredients in a product or there's more than 4 grams of sugar per serving (that's 1 teaspoon), skip it."

Eat More Fatty Fish

As sources of protein go, it doesn't get much better than fish, which is low in artery-clogging saturated fat and high in omega-3 essential fats, which improve triglycerides, reduce artery plaque, and prevent irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden death. Women in the Nurses' Health Study who ate fish at least twice a week lowered their risk of dying from heart disease by 31%. Grill or bake (don't fry) salmon, shrimp, rainbow trout, pollock (the fish used to make imitation crab), or sardines. Dr. Oz also recommends taking 600 milligrams a day of the omega-3 essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).