Dr. Arie Blitz MD MBA is a top Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Entrepreneur, and Medicolegal Expert. With a passion for the field and an unwavering commitment to his specialty, Dr. Arie Blitz is an expert in changing the lives of his patients for the better, as well as the lives of the public at large through education. Through... more
The C.H.O.I.C.E.S.: Cholesterol, Hypertension, Obesity, Information, Cigarettes, Exercise, and Sugar
What can women do to minimize their risk of heart disease? Some factors are difficult to modify, but others are within reach. One cannot change one’s genes or age, but one can do things to change the following factors, summarized with the acronym CHOICES, since that is what it is all about:
LDL or “bad” cholesterol should be lowered, and HDL or “good” cholesterol should be raised. Your doctor will be able to advise you about specifics, but these may include diet, exercise, and/or medications.
High blood pressure needs to be brought under control by a combination of diet, weight loss, exercise, controlling salt intake, and medications. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, and the most important risk factor for stroke. More than half of all women older than 65 have high blood pressure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include being overweight, a family history of hypertension, pregnancy, medication that affects hormone levels, and menopause.
Weight loss can improve the way you feel and lower your risk of a heart attack. It may do so directly or by impacting other risk factors.
Keep informed and abreast of the latest developments concerning women and heart disease. One important resource is the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign’s toll-free number: 1-888-MY-HEART.
The more you know about risk factors, symptoms, and treatments, the more likely you will be able to save your life and that of others. Another useful tool is the Framingham risk assessment tool, which evaluates risk factors to assess the likelihood of a heart attack within ten years.
Remember, keep informed, and keep your doctor informed!
Stop smoking them – period. Smoking is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and it is the most preventable. Even secondhand smoke elevates this risk. And the combination of smoking and taking medication that
affects hormone levels monumentally increases the risk of stroke and heart attack more than each factor alone. More than half of all heart attacks in women under 50 years of age are related to smoking. If you quit smoking, your risk of a heart attack drops by a third within two years after quitting, so it is never too late to quit. Overall, women who smoke will have a heart attack 19 years earlier than women who don’t.
Get active. Sedentary women have twice the rate of heart disease as active women. Physical activity also can have beneficial effects on other risk factors, including cholesterol levels, weight gain, hypertension, and diabetes. Optimally, one should exercise for at least an hour 4 to 6 times per week. Another alternative is to wear a pedometer or Fitbit and walk more than 10,000 steps a day.
Control diabetes, and recognize that it is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke. Women with diabetes have 3 to 7 times the risk of heart disease as nondiabetics. Control of blood sugar long term may lower this
Summary: CHOICES to Make
Armed with the knowledge to dispel the myths about women and heart disease (see prior blog) and the appropriate CHOICES to make to minimize the risk of heart disease, you will be well on your way to minimizing your risk.