Preventing Heart Disease in Women is for Life
When it comes to the prevention of heart disease in women, the focus should be on lifetime rather than short-term risk factors. That message comes from the updated American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines published in a special women's issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
"The new guidelines give women and their physicians more definitive answers about questions surrounding hormone replacement therapy and supplements like antioxidants and folic acid," says UAB Heart Health Center Cardiologist, Alan Gertler, M.D. "And they also expand some recommendations regarding aspirin therapy and lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise."
Developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for women of all ages since the lifetime risk of dying of cardiovascular disease is nearly one in three for women, according to the AHA Journal Report.
Among the recommendations highlighted in the 2007 guidelines are the following:
- Hormone replacement therapy is not recommended to prevent heart disease in women.
- Antioxidant supplements (such as vitamin E, C and beta-carotene) should not be used for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
- Folic acid should not be used to prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Routine low dose aspirin therapy may be considered in women age 65 or older regardless of cardiovascular risk status, if benefits are likely to outweigh other risks.
- For women who need to lose weight or sustain weight loss, a minimum of 60-90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (e.g., brisk walking) on most, and preferably all, days of the week.
- Women are encouraged to reduce saturated fats intake to less than 7 percent of calories if possible.
- Lifestyle changes to help manage blood pressure include weight control, increased physical activity, alcohol moderation, sodium restriction, and an emphasis on eating fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
"Women need to be aware that heart disease can occur at any age," warns Dr. Gertler. "It is important that even women who appear to be in good health should know the risk factors for heart disease and take steps to modify those they can. The American Heart Association guidelines help in that effort."