Cardiovascular Health Prevention in Women

Cardiovascular Health Prevention in Women

Cardiovascular Health Prevention in Women

Being aware of your personal risk and treatment options can empower you to live a long and healthy life. Guidelines have been developed to help women prevent the development of heart and vascular disease. Your physician can help you make lifestyle changes and select the right medications to help you avoid or treat heart and vascular disease.

Your risk for developing heart disease depends on the presence or absence of specific risk factors or lifestyle behaviors that may increase your risk of developing heart disease. When we talk about risk, we are describing the odds of you developing heart disease at some point in your life. The first step in lowering your risk requires assessing — or measuring — your risk. You and your physician can use a tool called the Framingham Risk Score to calculate your risk of developing heart disease.

10-Year Heart Disease Risk Score

Your risk score tells you your chances of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease over a 10-year period. You are given points, based on your age, total cholesterol level, HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, blood pressure and whether you smoke or have diabetes. The points are added up and converted into a 10-year risk score: the higher your score, the higher your risk of developing heart disease. Your risk can be interpreted as the number of chances out of 100 that you will develop or die from heart disease in the next 10 years, according to your current risk profile.

If you already have heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), abdominal aortic aneurysm, diabetes mellitus or chronic kidney disease, you are automatically considered to be at high risk. Also, some women with genetic cholesterol problems may be at high risk.

No matter your risk score, the most important thing you can do to lower your risk of heart and vascular disease is to make living a healthy lifestyle your top priority. The following five lifestyle changes are recommended to all women:

  • Stop smoking and avoid secondhand tobacco smoke.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  • Start a cardiac rehabilitation program if you have heart disease.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, legumes and sources of protein low in saturated fat. Limit the amount of trans fatty acids in your diet, such as those found in hydrogenated oils.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
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