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Albright College

TIP OF THE MONTH
March

Women and Heart Disease

This month's tip is a continuation of last month's heart disease topic. This month we are going to focus on women and heart disease. Men, please don't stop reading, you too can help to keep the women in your life healthy. Most women do not take the time to think about their own health, they are busy taking care of their children, husbands, boyfriends and parents.

"Heart disease is by far the leading cause of death of American women" (AHA). "About 480,000 women die of cardiovascular disease annually, more than the total number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths in men or the next four causes of death combined" (goredforwomen).

Let's say "ALOHA to Heart Disease"

A - Assess your risk and rank yourself as high, intermediate, or lower risk.
L - Lifestyle recommendations are priority No. 1 in heart disease prevention.
O - Other interventions are prioritized according to the expert panel rating scale.
H - Highest priority for therapy is for women at highest risk.
A - Avoid medical therapies called Class III

Assess Your Risk
Heart disease risk isn't something you either have or don't have. It's a risk that people have to a greater or lesser degree. Your health care provider may use a tool called the Framingham Risk Assessment Calculator to rank your risk as "high," "intermediate" or "lower." Some women with genetic cholesterol problems may also be at risk.

Lifestyle Change: First Line of Defense Against Heart Disease

  1. Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
  2. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
  3. Start a rehabilitation program if you've recently been hospitalized or had a procedure for heart disease.
  4. Eat a heart healthy diet. Including: fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy, fish, legumes, and sources of protein low in saturated fat.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight; balance the calories you eat with the amount you expend each day.

Other Interventions Prioritized by the Evidence Rating Scale

  1. Blood pressure is optimal at less then 120/80.
  2. It is important for you to know your cholesterol levels including the HDL and LDL.
  3. Diabetes (high blood sugar) is becoming more common in the US.

Highest Priority for Therapy Is for Women at Highest Risk
If you already have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic kidney disease you would most likely benefit from preventive therapy.

Avoid Medical Interventions Called "Class III"
According to the American Heart Association the following three interventions were initially thought to prevent heart disease however caution should be advised because further research has shown no benefit - and in some cases harm has been found:

  1. Combined postmenopausal hormone therapy has not been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart disease. In some cases it may cause heart attacks, stroke, or blood clots.
  2. Some studies have shown unexpected increase in hemorrhagic strokes with the use of the antioxidant supplements; vitamin E and beta carotene, which may also interfere with statin therapy.
  3. Aspirin is not recommended for low-risk patients. The risk of stomach bleeding or ulcers outweighs the potential benefits.

Overwhelming evidence suggests that heart disease can be prevented in both women and men.

Wishing you a Heart Healthy March.

Information retrieved February 12, 2007 from:
http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200009
http://www.goredforwomen.org/healthcare_professional/index.html
http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/109/10/e158

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