Women Need To Get Message About Heart Disease Risk

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Heart disease remains the number one killer of both men and women, but it seems women especially don't understand just how at risk they might be.

That's why the American Heart Association developed prevention guidelines specifically for women. The proof they're needed would seem to be is in the numbers - 62 percent of women are overweight or obese; 18 percent smoke and diabetes is rising.

Carol Bragdon, ARNP, PhD with Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center, says new American Heart Association prevention guidelines spell out what women need to know.

The first step in assessing your risk is knowing your numbers, including BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and weight. Then, look at your lifestyle, considering factors like whether you smoke and whether you get the recommended 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, five days a week. Bragdon says a brisk walk would qualify.

Upping exercise can bring down other risk factors. Bragdon says exercise has been shown to lower blood sugars, lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.

What we eat also has a big impact, but Bragdon says less than one percent of people actually follow what would be considered a heart-healthy diet. Such the diet is rich in whole grains, chicken and fruit and vegetables. It's also low in fat and sodium and includes fish twice a week. Real fish is best, but fish oil supplements can suffice for those who don't like fish. Bragdon says read the label and make sure your supplement gives you a combined 1000mg a day of the active ingredients DHA and EPA.

Once women know their risk, they should also know the symptoms of a heart attack. While women may feel chest pain like men do, their symptoms could also be more general, like shortness of breath, feeling anxious, sweaty or pain in the jaw or arm. If a person is experiencing these symptoms in an unusual fashion, Bragdon says, it's a good idea to to contact a doctor.

Women typically are slower to call and slower to seek health care, Bragdon says. The result is that intervention can't be done as quickly and women have more complications than men.

The American Heart Association will raise awareness with its "Go Red for Women" luncheon, 10 am to 1:30 pm, Friday December 2nd at the Ramada Convention Center in downtown Topeka. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by calling 785-228-3435.

Also, the Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center offers personal risk assessments for heart attacks targeted toward women. The cost is $55. They may be scheduled by calling 785-270-4HER.


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