Aging

4 Tips to Improve Heart Health for Women Over 50

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Great news! The number of women having heart attacks has plunged thanks to more effective treatments and emphasis on prevention. This is especially heartening for women over 50 since our risk of cardiovascular disease triples once our artery-protecting estrogen starts to decline. Here are easy ways to further pump up protection.

Loosen up.

Stretching your legs, hips, back, and arms for 20 minutes daily could trim five points off your blood pressure and 12 points off your artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, plus boost blood flow to your heart by 36 percent in two months. That’s the word from Japanese researchers, who say deep-muscle stretches stimulate nerves that relax and open arteries, plus tamp down your adrenal glands’ release of cortisol — a stress hormone that messes with your liver’s cholesterol control.

Lunch on tuna salad.

Three 6-oz. meals of fish weekly can cut your heart disease risk by up to 67 percent, suggests research in the journal PLOS ONE. Explains study co-author Miki Sagara, PhD, fish’s blend of omega-3 fats, amino acids, and potassium keeps your heart arteries healthy, boosts your production of “good” HDL cholesterol by seven points and cuts artery-clogging triglycerides by 15 points.

Load up on C.

Vitamin C is an essential building block of collagen, which strengthens arteries, and elastin, which keeps them flexible. No wonder a recent 11-year study in the journal Nutrients found that women with the highest levels of C were 70 percent less likely to ever have a heart attack. Adds study co-author Nerea Martin, MD, you absorb vitamin C equally well from bell peppers, strawberries, or 500-mg. supplements. Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.

Enjoy these best sips.

Brew three mugs of tea daily (black, green, oolong, or white) to cut your risk of heart disease in half, Boston University researchers say. Add a nightcap (5 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of beer, or 1 1/2 oz. of spirits) and your heart disease risk will drop by 40 percent! How? Tea’s polyphenols reduce damaging artery inflammation, and alcohol thins your blood, preventing risky clots.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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