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AKRON, Ohio, Feb. 16, 2011 – Surveys show fewer than one in 10 women perceive heart disease as their greatest health threat. But it's the nation's number one killer, and women are its prime target. One in 10 women ages 45 to 64 has some form of heart disease, and this increases to one in four women after age 65. Stroke is the number three killer of women.
"Women usually present with heart disease later in life than men. Men may often develop symptoms of heart disease around age 55 and women around age 65," said Cindy Pordon, D.O., a specialist in Clinical Cardiology and Women's Cardiac Health at the Summa Cardiovascular Institute in Akron. "This may be due to a protective benefit we receive from hormones during pre-menopause. Therefore, women will often note symptoms of heart disease about 10 years after menopause. If you are a female and diabetic, however, you lose that protection, and your risk is the same as men."
During Heart Month, the Summa Cardiovascular Institute is offering women these tips on beating heart disease:
- Check your risk: First, you should get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked. The higher either of them is, the greater your risk for heart disease or heart attack. A lipoprotein profile, a blood test done after a 9- to 12-hour fast, will measure the fats in your blood to indicate your levels of total cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, HDL ("good") cholesterol and triglycerides, another form of fat in the blood. Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or lower. Pre-hypertension, which means it is likely that high blood pressure will develop in the future, is 120 to 139 for the top number and 80 to 89 for the lower number. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is 140/90 or higher.
- Lose weight: Being overweight increases blood pressure, and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also increased your risk for type 2 diabetes, a condition in which your body can't use insulin to transport glucose into cells, where it can be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes itself increases your risk for clogged arteries and heart attack. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. To calculate your BMI, mulitply your weight in pounds by 703. Divide the result by your height in inches, then divide that result by your height in inches again.
- Quit smoking: Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack than do nonsmokers. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can shrink coronary arteries, making it tough for blood to circulate.
- Get active: At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week does more than help you burn calories.
- Change your fats: Switch the fat in your diet from butter and other saturated fats to olive oil and canola oil. Some soft spreads may be better than stick butter, so be a wise label reader. But use them sparingly because all fats are high in calories. Also, limit full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, palm oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Check the label on convenience and other prepared foods, which tend to be high in fat.
- Eat your fruits and veggies: Eat plenty of produce. Experts recommend at least 2-1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily. Studies link diets high in fruits and vegetables with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk for heart disease.
- Fiber up: Oatmeal, whole-grain bread and other whole-grain foods are excellent sources of soluble fiber, which helps reduce LDL cholesterol. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults have 6 to 9 ounces of grains per day. Half of this amount should be whole grains.
- Drink alcohol in moderation: Women should limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day, the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine or 1-1/2 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
About Summa Health System
Summa Health System is one of the largest integrated delivery systems in Ohio. Encompassing a network of hospitals, community health centers, a health plan, a physician-hospital organization, a multi-specialty physician organization, research and multiple foundations, Summa is nationally renowned for excellence in patient care and for exceptional approaches to healthcare delivery. Summa's clinical services are consistently recognized by U.S. News and World Report, Thomson Reuters and The Leapfrog Group. Summa also is a founding partner of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron. For more information, visit www.summahealth.org.