Heart Disease is the Number One Threat Facing Women

Did You Know? According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one in four women die from heart disease, while one in thirty women die from breast cancer. Heart disease accounts for more deaths in women than all cancers combined.

As a nationwide push to raise heart disease awareness, February is American Heart Month and it is sponsored annually by the American Heart Association. Though heart disease strikes both men and women, heart disease in women is underappreciated by the general population, and with serious consequences. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one in four women die from heart disease, while one in thirty women die from breast cancer. Heart disease accounts for more deaths in women than all cancers combined.

Recognizing the need for greater public awareness concerning heart health risks for women, The Heart Truth® program was developed as a separate campaign,and is part of an on-going initiative promoted by a number of health organizations—both nationally and internationally. Its red dress symbol represents an alert to all that Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear—It’s the #1 Killer of Women®. So, it is with good reason that American Heart Month begins its awareness campaign by designating February 1st as National Wear Red Day®.

It is important to note that the most significant difference of heart disease in women compared to men is the lack of knowledge that women are at high risk and have the same risk factors and similar outcomes as men. There has been a long-standing impression that heart disease is a man’s disease and does not affect women. This is patently untrue and has led to the failure of properly managing heart disease in half the population.

The good news is that the risk of heart disease can be reduced. There are four major modifiable risks, which are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Family history of early heart disease and age are additional risk factors which are obviously beyond our control. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking can all be managed with a change in lifestyle and medications, if necessary.

Improvement in our lifestyle is within everyone’s grasp and can be distilled down to three easy components: Eat Right, Exercise and Do Not Smoke.The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week, which is less than one-half hour a day and can be divided up during the course of the day. It is best to do no less than ten minutes of aerobic activity at a time. Exercise can improve your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Despite the abundance of diets being peddled in books, magazines and on the internet, a healthy diet can be reduced to some very simple rules: eat chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables; skip fried foods and fast food; and limit snack foods.Preparing your own meals is a bonus, since you will know exactly what is in the food you are eating. It does not have to be any more complicated than that. A healthy diet will lower your blood pressure, your cholesterol and your risk of diabetes.

Lastly, smoking. This is the simplest rule, but possibly the hardest to do. Do not smoke, ever. Quit smoking if you already do. Only one cigarette a day will increase your risk of heart disease. The bright side is that no matter how long you have been smoking, your risk of heart disease will drop as soon as you stop. In fact, your risk can be cut almost in half within one year of stopping.

Ultimately, the first step in reducing the risk of heart disease is to be aware that the risk exists. Education is the key. American Heart Month, The Heart Truth®, and National Wear Red Day® are important tools in raising this awareness and educating the population. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the women in their lives, mother, sister, daughter, and friends, know the risks. Armed with this knowledge, women can improve their lifestyle and take control of their risk of heart disease.

Get more details and make a difference during American Heart Month by visiting the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth

® The Heart Truth, The Red Dress, and Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear — It’s the #1 Killer of Women are registered trademarks of HHS.

® National Wear Red Day is a registered trademark of HHS and AHA.

This article was written by Steven T. Forman MD, FACC, FSCAI, RVT. Dr. Forman is Managing Partner of Los Alamitos Cardiovascular and Director of Performance Vein Institute.In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Forman holds a number of key positions at Los Alamitos Medical Center including Department Chair of Medicine. Dr. Forman is also Chairman of the AOC (Advisory Oversight Committee) for the Elective PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Interventions) Pilot Program for the State of California. Learn More about Dr. Forman.

Links for Positive Heart Health

Go Red for Women Campaign 2018 | Wear Red Day is February 2, 2018. Listen to real stories and get the tools you need to help prevent and manage heart disease.

NHLBI Heart Truth Handbook for Women | Easy to use and easy to read |.pdf download

NHLBI Get The Facts: Get information that can help you make positive choices regarding your heart health and lowering your risks for heart disease. | website

The American Heart Association: Learn about the Go Red campaign as well as the Power to End Stroke campaign. | website

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