Saturday, February 11, 2012

Women: Know Your Risk for Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of American women. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for nearly 1/3 of all female deaths in the United States. Considering these statistics, all women should take preventative measures against cardiovascular disease.

The following lifestyle tips can help reduce your risk of heart disease:

Watch your diet. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grain, high fiber foods and fish, and limit saturated fat. Limit alcohol to one drink per day and sodium intake to one teaspoon, 2500 mg, a day.

Maintain a healthy weight. Keep track of calories and don’t over-eat.

Exercise regularly. Try to get at least 20-25 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

Know your blood pressure. An optimal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Symptoms of heart disease in women are most often chest pressure and breathlessness, but can also be atypical symptoms such as fatigue.

Keep your cholesterol in check. High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol can allow the buildup of artery-clogging plaque, which could lead to heart attack. Your physician can check your levels through routine blood work and develop an appropriate treatment plan for high cholesterol.

Although all women should take steps to prevent heart disease, some may be at higher risk than others. Diabetics, smokers and individuals with a close relative who has had coronary disease at 65 years of age or younger  are at increased risk for coronary disease themselves.

“Remember, coronary artery disease is a dynamic process,” explains Margaret Brennan, MD, cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Cardiology at GBMC. “Positive changes you make today in your diet, activity or a smoking habit have immediate and long-lasting benefits on your level of risk.”

If you think you may be at risk for heart disease, call 443-849-GBMC (4262) to find a cardiologist who is right for you.

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