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Heart disease, more than any other health threat, is the number one killer of African American women. This fact is no surprise. Black women in general are more prone to heath scares that cause the illness: high blood pressure, overweight and obesity and diabetes. Studies suggest black women don’t receive the same medical care and treatments as white women, raising their death toll 35 percent higher. As a young black woman myself, this is particularly scary because high blood pressure and diabetes run in my family. I plan to get a head start to prevention and encourage all Hello Beautiful readers to do the same! Below, you will find some tips and guidelines to lessen your chances.

You HAVE to quit smoking! According to Aetna’s Women’s Health, one in five African American women puffs. Yes, its hard, but in just one year, your risk for heart disease will drop drastically. Chew gum, try patches, talk to your doctor, anything to save your life!

Lower blood pressure: decreasing salt intake, eating more fruits and vegetables as well as limiting alcohol consumption, will decrease blood pressure, which is an indicator for heart disease.

Eat healthy and exercise: Even if you’re not over weight, a healthy lifestyle can do wonders. A balanced diet combined with at least 30 minutes of cardio, will lower your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and other ailments that can all lead to heart disease. Not only that, but you will feel stronger along with a sense of accomplishment.

Cheerios are a girl’s best friend: Lowering your cholesterol is crucial, and Cheerios is the only cereal proven to do just that! Adopt this whole-grain cereal in your new diet and watch that cholesterol drop. Eat up ladies!

For more information, visit www.womenshealth.aetna.com

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