By now, most women know that heart disease is not a problem limited to men. What most women don’t realize is that it is a disease that affects every woman.
This shift in direction was recently outlined in the American Heart Association’s 2007 Guidelines for Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke in Women.“The new focus of the 2007 guidelines is that heart disease is no longer viewed as a condition that some people develop,” says Kathleen M. Heintz, D.O., Clinical Cardiologist with the Cooper Heart Institute. “It needs to be viewed as a concern for all women.”
“The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend a dramatic shift in how early, and how aggressively, women should pursue an evaluation and prevention plan for heart disease,” says Dr. Heintz.
The recommendations include urging women to obtain a cardiovascular risk evaluation, a medical history, physical examination, and baseline cholesterol/glucose levels) by the age of 20, to determine their individual level of heart health. In addition, the new guidelines divide risk development into three categories, high risk, at risk and optimal risk; with specific recommended action for each level.
“In general, the guidelines support what we have come to believe is part of a heart healthy lifestyle–a low fat diet rich in vegetables and fresh fruit, limiting alcohol intake, and stopping smoking,” says Dr. Heintz.
However, several changes were noted from previous recommendations:
- Women are recommended to increase their exercise regime to a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, with an increase of 60 minutes – 90 minutes in those pursuing weight loss.
- Do not take folic acid, vitamin E, C or beta carotene for heart disease prevention.
- Do not take hormone replacement therapy, such as estrogen therapy, to prevent heart disease.
- For women 65 and older, an aspirin a day is recommended for heart disease prevention, unless the risks outweigh the benefits because of other conditions.
“We are trying to communicate that heart health is a life-long pursuit for women, not simply a condition associated with women over 50,” says Dr. Heintz. “More women than men die each year from heart disease, and two-thirds of those women will not have a history of heart problems or cardiac symptoms. We need to emphasize prevention, not just treatment.”
In addition to the cardiac services for women available at Cooper University Hospital, the Cooper Heart Institute has outpatient care facilities throughout South Jersey. These outpatient offices provide access to cardiac experts, the latest technology and cutting-edge research.
For more information about this free program or to RSVP, please call 1-800-8-COOPER (800-826-6737).