"Go Red – for your heart, your health, your life." That’s the slogan for the American Heart Association’s new nationwide campaign to raise awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. According to the AHA, cardiovascular disease claims more women’s lives than the next seven causes of death combined.
Although some risk factors for heart disease such as age, gender, heredity, race and previous history of a heart attack are not controllable, several risk factors can be controlled or treated. Through the "Go Red for Women" campaign, the AHA hopes to educate women about which risk factors are modifiable and how to take steps to lower those risks.
High blood cholesterol…is your number up?
– High blood cholesterol has no symptoms, and many people are unaware they have it. Be informed, find out what your blood cholesterol levels are and then take action if needed.
– If you have high LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, follow a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and regularly participate in moderate physical activity. For some people, a cholesterol-lowering medication also may be prescribed.
High blood pressure…the silent killer
– Women are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure if they are more than 20 pounds over a healthy weight, have a family history of high blood pressure or have reached the age of menopause.
– Lowering high blood pressure levels through weight loss, physical activity and medications, if necessary, will help lower your risk for heart disease.
Physical inactivity…get moving
– Couch potatoes – people who get little exercise – are more likely to develop heart disease.
– Thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week helps reduce risk for heart disease and can help control blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity.
Obesity or overweight…let’s lighten up
– If you have too much body fat, especially around the waist, you are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.
– Even modest weight loss (5 percent to 10 percent of body weight) can help lower heart disease risk.
Diabetes…control it for life
– Women with diabetes have a two to four times greater risk for developing heart disease compared to women without diabetes.
– Diabetes is treatable. Work with your health care provider on ways to manage your diabetes and reduce other health risk factors.
Tobacco use…let’s clear the air
– Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States.
– When you stop smoking, your risk for heart disease and stroke immediately starts to drop. After just one year without smoking, your risk is cut in half and will continue to decline to levels as low as a nonsmoker’s risk.
Drinking too much alcohol…know your limits
– Regularly drinking too much alcohol tends to raise blood pressure and may lead to heart failure.
– If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do drink, do so in moderation. For women, moderation is defined as no more than one drink per day.
For more information about the "Go Red for Women" campaign, visit the AHA Web site at www.americanheart.org or call 1-800-242-8721.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension