Published: Sept. 19, 2008
Updated: Sept. 22, 2008
Do you know the best way to protect yourself from heart disease? For women, it really can be as simple as one, two, three:
Before you focus on specific illnesses, cultivate the behaviors that are proven to reduce your risk from all manner of maladies, from heart disease to cancer:
Making these elements a part of your lifestyle now is the most important thing you can do to prevent heart disease from striking you.
You are at risk for heart disease if you meet any of these criteria, no matter your age:
For women with no previous heart-related health problems and no symptoms of heart disease or heart failure, your doctor is likely to prescribe:
You may want to ask your doctor about:
If you are not currently at risk: Visit your doctor every year for a wellness checkup. He or she will monitor your weight, lifestyle, and bloodwork to make sure you stay in optimal health. In the meantime, repeat step 1.
*Cardiologist Kristin Newby, MD, adds that metabolic syndrome may be the most important marker for early detection of heart disease in women. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health risks that includes obesity, high blood sugar, and other abnormal blood work results that your doctor can measure. It often precedes type 2 diabetes, but it also increases the chance of developing heart disease and stroke. Newby says many people with metabolic syndrome may develop heart problems even before they are diagnosed with diabetes.
In 2007, the American Heart Association released updated recommendations for how women can best prevent heart disease. They’re based on a review of clinical evidence analyzed by 33 of the nation’s leading experts on women’s heart health. Duke’s clinical data formed the bedrock for much of these recommendations, and Duke cardiologist Kristin Newby, MD, internist Rowena Dolor, MD, and neurologist Cheryl Bushnell, MD (now of Wake forest), were among the expert panelists.