What was once thought of as a man’s disease, heart disease has taken the lives of more women than cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and accidents combined. Taking preventative measures from is more necessary now than ever due to rising insurance costs. In 1999, the American Heart Association (AHA) published the first set of recommendations for preventing this deadly disease based on clinical research. Now, more than 10 years later, women need something a little more straightforward to keep them on track to good heart health.
Taking diversity into account
Every woman is different and the following life factors must be taken into consideration when devising a preventative plan:
Clinical studies target a specific type of woman. But the United States was founded by immigrants and now, diversity reigns more than ever. According to the American Heart Association, about 81 percent of heart disease deaths occur among lower to middle income women. This could be contributed to the present economy, which could make maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle next to impossible. Also, with medications so expensive, taking medicine may not be an option for some. Stress also plays a factor. Learning to eat healthier and decrease stress levels is important to heart health.
Current health status
The new AHA findings recognize that many women are suffering from other, more modern disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Knowing this, the AHA has been hard at work and has now published the 2011 update to the cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines for women. Not only has so much changed in the last decade, but the AHA has taken a more practical approach to these new and improved guidelines.
Communication is key
The most critical step in prevention is for women to get a conversation going with their doctors. It is impossible to fully understand the risks of heart disease without taking this first step. And because each woman is unique physically, a full evaluation is necessary to begin the prevention process.
Some say that knowledge is power, so there is a lot women can do once they know their own personal risks for heart disease. Full disclosure between patient and doctor is absolutely necessary, but it’s not just the doctor who should know. In the event of an emergency, all caretakers should know a woman’s medical history as well. This does not just apply to close family members, but emergency personnel, too.
Heart disease lifestyle recommendations
Women are advised not to smoke and to avoid environmental tobacco smoke. Nicotine replacement, pharmacotherapy options, behavioral programs or formal smoking cessation programs should be pursued with the advice of your doctor.
- Women are advised to accumulate at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
- Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 min, preferably spread throughout the week.
- Women are advised that additional cardiovascular benefits are provided by increasing moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 5 hours a week, 2 1/2 hours a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both.
- Women are advised to engage in muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed 2 days a week .
- Women who need to lose weight or sustain weight loss should be advised to accumulate a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity (eg, brisk walking) on most, and preferably all, days of the week.
Women are advised to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; to choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods; to consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week; to limit intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, alcohol, sodium, and sugar; and avoid trans-fatty acids.
Women should maintain or lose weight through an appropriate balance of physical activity, caloric intake, and formal behavioral programs when indicated to maintain or achieve an appropriate body weight (eg, BMI 25 kg/m2 in US women), waist size (eg, 35 in), or other target metric of obesity.
Everyday safety measures
Medical ID jewelry is a smart way for a woman with heart disease or potential risks to inform medical officials of her current condition. If the emergency is so serious that she can’t speak, assessing the situation and trying to determine her medical needs could cost emergency personnel critical time. And with heart problems, time could be the determiner between life and death.
American Medical ID carries medical alert bracelets for women that are engraved with essential personal health information. They are also very stylish and easy to wear. Because it’s clear that each woman has unique tastes, dog tags, necklaces, charms, key chains, and other accessories are just as easy to carry around at all times.
For the complete 2011 update to the AHA cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines for women, see the full article published in Circulation, the official journal of the American Heart Association.