In the United States, a woman dies from cardiovascular disease every minute, according to the American Heart Association. It is the leading cause of death among women in the United States who are over age 25, noted the Cleveland Clinic, with the death rate increasing.
While there are several non-modifiable risk factors for heart disease, there are ones that can be changed, such as lifestyle choices. For example, high triglycerides and high blood cholesterol can increase an individual's risk, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
EmpowHER talked to Lori Mosca, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of Preventive Cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D., C.D.N., a nutritionist in private practice and an adjunct professor at New York University about the importance of an omega-3 rich diet to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
EmpowHER: What types of lifestyle and diet choices can put an individual at risk for heart attack?
Dr. Mosca: People often don't realize that their diet and lifestyle contribute to their risk for developing heart disease. One simple recommendation for preventing heart disease is to incorporate two to three servings of fish into your diet each week; however, most Americans report eating less than half of this amount. Additionally, a diet high in fat, sodium and trans-fats and low in fiber has been shown to increase a person's risk for heart disease.
EmpowHER: What do women need to know about heart disease?
Dr. Mosca: Women need to know that they can have an active role in their health to prevent heart disease. More than 200,000 women die each year from heart disease; however, research has shown that many women are still unaware of their risk for developing heart disease. I encourage every woman to begin a conversation with her doctor about her risk factors and ways to take action early on.
Every woman should also know her numbers -- cholesterol, blood sugar and waist size -- to be aware of and manage her risk for heart disease. There are a number of lifestyle and diet changes that can help women reduce their risk for developing heart disease, including incorporating more fish into their diets.
EmpowHER: What is the latest research saying about an omega-3 rich diet?
Dr. Young: Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids provide protection against heart disease and help to increase cognitive function.
EmpowHER: What omega-3 rich foods should individuals include in their diet? How can they add these foods to their everyday meals?
Dr. Young: Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids because it’s also a lean protein and is low in calories. National guidelines state that Americans should be eating two to three servings of fish per week, however most are eating less than half that amount.
Tuna and salmon are a great source of omega-3s and they’re convenient and easily accessible options to incorporate into everyday meals. I counsel my clients to carry canned or pouch tuna for a quick meal – you can make a sandwich, throw it on top of a salad – so easy! For more versatile recipes for all different types of meals visit www.GetRealAboutSeafood.com/
EmpowHER: Why is it particularly important for women to eat fish?
Dr. Young: Heart disease is the silent killer among women and many are still unaware that it’s the leading cause of death for women. Women can help reduce their risk of heart disease by incorporating omega-3 rich foods, like fish, in their diets. Also, when you substitute fish in meals throughout the week, you often reduce your consumption of saturated fats commonly found in red meats.
EmpowHER: What are the benefits of fish for pregnant women and nursing mothers?
Dr. Young: Pregnant women and nursing mothers should eat at least two servings of fish (low-mercury) per week to help increase the cognitive development of their babies. The omega-3s in fish also offer great health benefits to the mother during her pregnancy, including reduced inflammation and improved heart health.