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Ellen Dolgen Menopause Mondays
Next time you're with a group of girlfriends, look to your left. Then look to your right. Of the three of you, one probably has heart disease, the number-one killer of women in the United States.

More than one in three women have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the [Link Removed]. "Said another way, almost half of women still do not know. Importantly, among the 53 percent, most do not feel that cardiovascular disease is their leading healthcare threat, so women continue to fail to make the numbers personal."

I first encountered heart disease at the young age of 11, when my lovely father, who was 42 at the time, suffered his first heart attack. Through the years, my family watched him go through one open-heart surgery, countless diet and lifestyle changes, and, ultimately, his passing at just 58 years young.

My father’s heart disease was discovered too late, but he wouldn’t let that happen to any of his kids. The doctor who performed my father’s open-heart surgery suggested that we all get our cholesterol checked, so my dad sent us to the doctor to run the numbers.

The result: I learned at the age of 17 that I too had alarmingly high cholesterol levels (honestly, at first I thought the doctor had mistakenly switched my results with my dad’s!). I knew I had to make a change if I wasn’t going to leave this Earth too soon as well. Today, at 60 years old and with a heart as strong as an ox, I am living proof that a healthy lifestyle is as important as hereditary predispositions in determining your heart health. Healthy living has not just saved my heart—it has saved my life!

It can save yours, too! Take these four easy steps to protect yourself from heart disease:

Know Your Numbers

The first step to waging war on heart disease is to know thy enemy. To arm yourself with the right weapons, you first need to understand your own personal risks factors and what you can do to reduce them. Talk to your physician or gynecologist about the tests out there that are available to you: A lipid panel, a blood test that measures your triglyceride as well as overall cholesterol, HDL, and LDL levels; a blood glucose test, which helps determine your levels of insulin sensitivity; C-reactive protein tests, which evaluates your body's inflammation levels; a stress test, which determines how much stress your heart can handle; and an electrocardiogram, which assesses your heart's electrical signals. You can also get a general idea of your cardiovascular risk by taking the [Link Removed]. If your numbers are out of sorts, take it seriously, but try not to panic. With lifestyle changes and medication, many people can actually reverse their heart disease, according to Merz.

Live The Good Life

You've heard it a gazillion times: Exercise and eat right. Luckily, even if menopause lands you in the sisterhood of the shrinking pants, going down a size to up your heart health doesn't require a complete lifestyle makeover. Practicing five healthy lifestyle habits--consuming moderate amounts of alcohol (sorry alcohol lovers!), eating a healthy diet, exercising daily, maintaining a normal body weight, and not smoking--can cut your heart attack risk by a whopping 92 percent, according to a [Link Removed]. You don't have to be an athlete to find heart health!

Consider HRT for More Than That Pesky Menopause Symptom Hot Flash Relief

This just in: Hormone replacement therapy can reduce the risk of heart disease! I repeat, hormone replacement therapy can reduce the risk of heart disease! The key is starting earlier rather than later. According to the North American Menopause Society's latest review of hormone replacement therapy, [Link Removed].

Spot the Signs of a Heart Attack

Listen up women entering perimenopause and menopause. More women than men die each year from heart attacks, but many people still equate heart attacks with the symptoms that men, not women, typically show, according to the [Link Removed]

We women have big loving hearts. So this American Heart Month, pay special attention to and care for your true Valentine, your heart! Donning a red dress is not enough!

Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

Looking for creative ways to say "I love you" all year long? [Link Removed]

Shmirshky, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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