Did you know that 33% of women 20 years and older have hypertension?
Even with the flurry of media attention in the last few years, most women don’t realize they are more likely to die of heart disease or coronary artery disease (CAD) than cancer. “Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States,” says Nazanin Azadi, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. But knowing how to lower your risk and diagnose the disease in its early stages can help reduce the odds of dying from heart disease.
Here are the five best ways to prevent it and the five best ways to diagnose it early.
5 ways to lower your risk
- A healthy diet: Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, legumes, grains, fish and lean meats.
- Exercise: Anyone who isn’t already exercising should consult a physician before initiating a vigorous exercise program. For overall cardiac health, the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity at least five days per week for a total of 150 minutes.
- Routine exams by a primary care provider: Visit your primary care physician for routine assessment of standard risk factors for hypertension—smoking, diabetes and hyperlipidemia.
- Self-education: Do your homework and understand factors that may contribute to your risk for heart disease.
- Lifestyle habits: Stop smoking and stay away from second-hand smoke.
5 tests that assess your risk
- Blood pressure: The goal is for blood pressure is less than 140/90 if you are not diabetic, and 130/80 if you are diabetic.
- Fasting lipid panel: High total cholesterol, high lowdensity lipoprotein, high triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein have all been shown to be associated with increased cardiovascular risk in women.
- Fasting glucose test and hemoglobin A1C: Women with diabetes have a risk of dying from heart disease that is six times higher than women without diabetes.
- Weight assessment: Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Shoot for a goal of 20-25.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test can evaluate for atrial fibrillation and can help identify patients who have suffered silent heart attacks, as well as subtle changes in the structure of the heart muscle as a result of hypertension or diabetes.
There’s no silver bullet to stave off a heart or coronary artery disease, but there are ways to reduce your risk and regular screenings that can help you identify risk before it becomes a major problem. We hope these tips serve as helpful reminders that you can take control over some elements to protect yourself or a loved one.