Determining a Woman’s Risk For Heart Disease
The first step toward optimal heart health is becoming aware of your own personal risk factors for heart disease. The good news is that just as heart disease is highly preventable for both men and women. The key is to minimize those factors that increase the risk for CAD.
Let’s review the risk factors that you can control:1. Physical Activity. A sedentary lifestyle is the number-one heart disease risk factor for women. Lack of exercise contributes to obesity, which contributes to heart disease. Reducing risk for CAD can be as simple as becoming more active and exercising on a regular basis. Regular aerobic exercise is an effective way to reduce risk factors—such as blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity—that contribute to the likelihood of developing CAD.Studies report that simply walking 30 to 45 minutes three times a week reduces the risk of heart attack in women by 50%. Regular exercise also helps to lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
2. Weight Control Weight Control. Obesity worsens many medical conditions. Excess weight results in more pressure on the heart and joints and less inclination to be physically active. This triggers a vicious cycle resulting in even more weight gain. By instituting a healthy weight-loss program, a woman can take positive steps toward reducing the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. In the meantime, she gains extra energy, stamina, and a boost in feeling better about herself.
3. Healthful Diet A heart-healthy, well balanced diet consists of reasonable portions of fish, poultry, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats. It is also important to avoid saturated fats.
4. Smoking If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit. As few as two to five cigarettes a day can increase a woman’s risk of heart attack by 50%.
5. Stress and Depression. Stress and Depression. Stress and/or depression increases the risk for heart disease. Therefore, it’s important for women to take time out of their very busy days for themselves. Whether it’s walking the dog twice a day, taking a yoga class several times a week, meditating for five- to 10-minutes daily, or even reading a good book, women can greatly benefit greatly from regular stress-reducing pursuits. Getting enough sleep so you awaken feeling rested is also critical. In the case of unremitting depression or anxiety, medical counseling is highly recommended.
6. Blood Lipids. One of the best ways women can reduce their risk for coronary artery disease is by controlling blood lipids (LDL, HDL, and triglycerides) through diet, exercise, and lipid-lowering medications when needed. Statin drugs can halt and possibly even reverse the heart disease process. Studies have report that statin drugs reduce the number of heart attacks in women and men. Women with coronary artery disease and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels that are not adequately controlled by lifestyle measures should consult with their physician about starting a course of cholesterol-lowering medication.
7. Aspirin. The blood-thinning qualities of aspirin act as an excellent prophylactic in the fight against heart disease. Doctors have been prescribing a daily aspirin to their male patients who are at risk for heart disease, and recently they have begun prescribing aspirin for women as well. Researchers have reported that women are less likely than men to take their daily aspirin. Many women claim stomach pain from the aspirin as their reason for stopping. However, a low dose (one 81 mg “baby” aspirin) should not cause any stomach distress when taken with food.