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The American Heart Association’s New Guidelines for Women

Most women tend to think of heart disease as being much more common in men.  In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women.  Roughly 30% of all women die of heart disease while 23% die of all ALL cancers combined.  Fortunately, most heart disease is preventable.

In February, 2004,  the American Heart Association summarized steps for women to take in order to fight and prevent cardiovascular disease.  These are the first evidence-based guidelines specifically for women.  Dr. Lori Mosca, the director of preventive cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, helped write the guidelines.  She states that “the concept of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as a ‘have-or-have-not’ condition has been replaced with the idea that CVD develops over time and every woman is somewhere on the continuum”.

The prevention guidelines focus on lifestyle factors such as being physically active on most days, not smoking, and following a heart-healthy diet.  More specific guidelines can be recommended based on whether a woman has low, intermediate, or high risk of having a heart attack in the next ten years.  This risk is determined by a scoring method that was developed by the Framingham Heart Study.  You must see your physician to find out what your individual risk is.  Some risk factors for both men and women include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, not exercising, being overweight, stress, and having a family history of heart disease and/or stroke.  Once your risk level is determined, an individualized plan of lifestyle interventions and possibly, medications and/or dietary supplements, can be formed to help you avoid heart attacks and strokes. 

 The guidelines are published in the February 10th (2004) edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association and are available at The American Heart Association website.


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