Heart Breakers: Heart disease and women

Sixteen common health traps that significantly increase woman's risk of heart disease
February 19, 2008 12:54:03 PM PST
February is heart month and although heart disease kills more women than any other disease, most women don't know enough their risks of developing cardiovascular problems. With a laundry list of things to do day in and day out, women are busier than ever. With little time, it's difficult to keep up-to-date with the latest scientific studies and results.

Women tend to fall into an abyss of mistakes, risking their heart health. According to Amanda Gardner, author of the article "Heart Health Update," that "lapse could mean that [woman's] heart disease risk is greater than [women] realize." In her article, she addresses 16 common mistakes most women make:

You're secretive about you're hot flashes.

Hot flashes can be linked to high blood pressure, due to an increase in the hormone norepinephrine. This hormone can increase heart rate, blood pressure and sugar levels, according to Linda M. Gerber, PhD of Cornell University's Weill Medical College. Have your blood pressure checked regularly and tell the doctor about your hot flashes. Don't sweat through them alone.

You exercise for only 20 minutes a day.

Extra weight elevates blood pressure, increasing the "bad" cholesterol and taking a toll on the heart. That's why the American Heart Association recommends 60 to 90 minutes of exercise for women daily to help lose or maintain weight.

You stopped taking hormonal therapy.

Recent research has reversed the 2002 study from the Woman's Health initiative, which proved that hormone therapy increased the risk of heart attacks. The latest findings suggest that hormone therapy is beneficial to the heart when used in women in their postmenopausal stage.

You only watch out for the "bad" cholesterol.

Get your fats straight. Recent studies show that when reducing artery plaque, you must increase the "good" cholesterol, as well as decrease the "bad" cholesterol in a diet.

You take aspirin

Aspirin is only helpful for the heart at 65 years and older. At this time, aspirin thins the blood, which lowers the risk of clots. If taken prematurely, women run the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

You enjoy eating at your fast food joint every once in a while.

Before you hit the drive thru or reach in the cookie jar, know that just one fatty meal will still affect your arteries. Australian researchers found that women who consume 3.6 grams of trans fat a day have triple the risk of heart disease compared with those who eat only 2.5 grams.

The last time you took a nap was in preschool.

Europeans have it right with a midday siesta. A 30 minute cat-nap will decrease stress that can tax your heart.

You take vitamin supplements.

Supplements are not proven to help prevent heart disease. Animal studies with vitamins passed the test; however, scientists can't prove the benefits of vitamin supplements on the human body. Therefore, eating vitamin enriched foods, like salmon or spinach, is more important than taking your vitamins.

You have no family history of heart disease; you don't worry.

Environmental factors still play a huge part in your health. High air pollution can strongly affect heart health. Exercising and a healthy diet can counteract environmental factors beyond your control.

You aced your angiogram.

An angiogram examines blood vessels through X-rays. The imaging test is more beneficial for men because they develop plaque in one location, which is easier to detect in an X-ray; however, women develop plaque throughout their narrow arteries. A screening vascular ultrasound (SVU) is a better test for women.

You've quit smoking seven times.

Don't quit alone; get help. Less than seven percent of smokers quit successfully without help. It's recommended that smokers receive medication, counseling, or nicotine replacement. Only you can decide what is best for your body to quit, but you need support to help along the journey.

You think your doctor cares about your heart

A recent American Heart Association study, only eight percent of doctors and 17 percent of cardiologist knew that heart disease kills more women than men every year. Additionally, a recent troubling study shows that while heart disease rates for men age 35 to 44 are stabilizing, rates for women under 45 are soaring. This indicates that doctors are more likely to look for heart disease in men than in women. Know the facts and the risks and make sure that your doctor does too.

You love salt.

Salt increases blood pressure, which increases risk for heart disease. A recent FDA study on salt in processed foods showed that one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure due to an increased intake of salt. Hypertension is the leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Lowering salt intake by 25 to 30 percent reduces the risk by 25 percent, said a study in the British Medical Journal. Hold off on reaching for the salt shaker during meals and limit the number of processed foods.

You have a normal body mass index (BMI).

BMI doesn't differentiate between fat, muscle, and bone. This measurement isn't a good healthy heart reader. Pay attention to your waistline and body shape.

You have arthritis in your knees.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) blocks the blood vessels of the leg that can also cause artery trouble. Have severe leg pain examined.

You downplay your health problems.

Women tend to overlook their health problems for fear of embarrassment or a false alarm; however, the lax attitude isn't good for the heart and can often times lead to less heart healthy care and treatment. Be knowledgeable and aggressive about your heart and doctors will be too.


'The Culture of a Woman's Heart' Explored at February 20 Program

You may be aware that heart disease affects women differently than men, but did you know that ethnicity can create additional risk factors?

Join women's heart experts at Rush University Medical Center for an informative program: 'The Culture of a Woman's Heart' on Wednesday, February 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The free program will be held in the Searle Conference Center, 5th Floor of the Professional Office Building, on the Rush campus, 1725 W. Harrison Street, Chicago.

Janice M. Zeller, PhD, RN, a specialist in complementary and alternative medicine and Angela Johnson, a licensed acupuncturist and Oriental medicine practitioner, will offer techniques to manage stress and make healthier lifestyle choices that promote heart health.

The program will outline your individual risk factors based on your ethnicity and explain how you can be proactive about your heart health. Breakout sessions for African-American, Asian, Caucasian and Latina groups will follow the main presentation. During these sessions, physicians and nutritionists will talk about the unique challenges women of different ethnicities face in their daily lives and explain how to make healthier choices for your heart.

All attendees will be entered into a free raffle drawing for fun prizes. Refreshments and free parking are available for registered attendees. To register, please call 888-352-Rush (7874) or visit www.rush.edu.

Save Your Life with 15 Minutes at Chicago's Sister to Sister Heart Health Fair

8th Annual Event to be Held Wednesday, February 20

Woman's heart disease, the #1 killer of women in the United States, is a preventable. However, it will claim over a half million women's lives through heart attack or stroke this year alone. The Sister to Sister Foundation is committed to prevent these deaths and will provide free heart health screenings on Wednesday, February 20, 2008, at the National Woman's Heart Day Health Fair on the first floor of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"Women do so much for their families and friends. It's time they take care of their own hearts," said Sister to Sister Founder and President, Irene Pollin. "Getting a heart screening may be the best 15 minutes they ever spent!" Sister to Sister, the nation's only non-profit organization that is solely focused on woman's heart disease and prevention, has again selected Chicago as one of 17 cities nationwide to host a National Woman's Heart Day Health Fair. In addition to the free heart health screenings, the day-long event will also include counseling, medical panel discussions, heart-healthy cooking and fitness demonstrations, interactive exhibits and much more. Other host cities in 2008 include Miami, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York City, Baltimore, Detroit and Atlanta.

In 2007, at the Sister to Sister Heart Health Fairs throughout the United States, more than 40 percent of the 9,795 women screened found out that they had two or more risk factors for heart disease. A significant number of them had been unaware of this before screening.

For further information about the 2008 National Women's Heart Day Health Fair, please call 773.475.4310 or visit http://www.sistertosister.org/fairs/chicago.

Chicago Go Red for Women Luncheon Set for February 29 at Macy's on State Street

Luncheon to raise awareness, funds, for No. 1 Killer of Women

The 2008 Go Red for Women Luncheon, an annual event that expects to educate approximately 600 Chicago-area women about heart disease as their No. 1 health risk, is slated for February 29. Part of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement, the 2008 Luncheon will feature health education workshops, screenings, cooking demonstrations and will conclude with an elegant lunch program. This year's luncheon program will feature keynote speaker Gina R. Boswell, former senior vice president and chief operating officer Avon North America and Board Member, Manpower.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in America and the Chicago Go Red for Women Luncheon and national Go Red For Women movement are the American Heart Association's call for women by women to take charge of their health and live stronger, healthier lives. Go Red For Women combines style with substance, and the Red Dress and the color red are the American Heart Association's symbols for women and heart disease. To join the movement and register to take the lifesaving Go Red Heart Checkup, visit www.goredforwomen.org.

Friday, February 29, 2008

7:00 a.m.: Registration Opens

7:30 a.m.: Health Exhibits and Silent Auction begins

7:30 a.m. ? 8:30 a.m.: Pre-breakfast screenings sponsored Northwestern Memorial Hospital

9 a.m.: Kick-off Breakfast and Town Hall Meeting Moderated by Janet Davies, ABC 7 Chicago

10:30 a.m.: Heart health education, cooking demonstrations, workshops

Noon: Luncheon program emceed by Kathy Brock, ABC 7 Chicago

Walnut Room, Macy's on State Street, Chicago Call 312-476-6623 to learn more about tickets and sponsorship opportunities.

Commonly believed to be a "man's problem," more than one in five women have some form of cardiovascular disease; it claims more than 505,000 female lives each year, almost as many lives as the next seven leading causes of death combined. Dollars raised during the Go Red for Women campaign are used for the following: women and heart disease research, educational materials and community programs for women, raising the awareness in women, advocating for increased funding of women and heart disease research and initiatives, and educating health professionals and their patients about women and heart disease.