Real-world advice for women about heart disease

Last week, the American Heart Association issued the 2011 update to its guidelines for preventing heart disease in women. Often thought to be a male disease, heart disease is the number one cause of death among women. More women die from heart disease than from cancer, respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s and accidents, combined.

Dr. Lori Mosca, the chair of the guidelines writing committee, noted, “These recommendations underscore the fact that benefits of preventive measures seen day-to-day in doctors’ offices often fall short of those reported for patients in research settings.” Dr. Mosca noted that patients in the real-world often don’t fair as well as patients in studies because they are “older, sicker, and experience more side effects.”

Most of the AHA’s guidelines are generally considered common sense these days, but they’re definitely worth reviewing and heeding. Some key guidelines are:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid environmental smoke.
  • Get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
  • Women’s diets should be rich in fruits and vegetables and include whole-grain and high-fiber foods. They should eat fish at least twice a week, limit saturated fat and avoid trans-fats.
  • Aspirin should be taken by women at high risk, and it can also be useful for other women, including healthy women.

Visit the American Heart Association site to view the entire list and discuss them with your doctor.

Photo of Dr. Mosca courtesy: American Heart Association

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