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Take Heart Articles
Seeing Red about Women and Heart Disease
03/29/2006
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in South Carolina. In fact, it kills more women each year than all forms of cancer combined. Hopeless? Hardly! As we learn more about the causes of heart disease, we know that it is largely preventable. This knowledge can make a life-saving difference for you, your family and friends.

It’s no longer a men-only club
Although coronary heart disease used to be considered a men’s health issue, women are perhaps at greater risk, especially as they age. “Most women aren’t worried about heart disease as much as they are about other health issues,” says Palmetto Health Richland cardiologist Dr. Joe Hollins. “More than 500,000 women die each year from cardiovascular disease. It may be hard to believe, but more than 8 million American women— that’s one in five females—currently are living with heart disease.”

Women and men share six identified risk factors, according to the American Heart Association. These include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, and diabetes. Yet U.S. women tipped the scales in total deaths – they represented 53.5 percent in 2000 – from cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke.

Statistics show that African-American and Mexican-American women have higher heart disease risk than white women of comparable economic status. And, aging plays a role, says the American Heart Association. Heart disease rates in women after menopause are two to three times those of women the same age before menopause.

Unfortunately, women at older ages who have heart attacks are more likely to die from them. “This could be because heart disease and heart attack symptoms may not be recognized as early in women,” says Dr. Hollins.

Tips for better heart health
What can women do to protect themselves? A lot. “It’s important to make it a priority to take care of yourself,” says Dr. Hollins. “Make an appointment for an annual exam with your doctor, and be sure to have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels checked. In fact, many people benefit from advanced lipid testing that can help doctors customize a healthy lifestyle plan for you.” It’s also critical to follow a good nutrition plan, lose weight if needed, and get regular exercise.

“Being physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week goes a long way in protecting your heart,” says Dr. Hollins. “Finally, if you smoke, stop. Cigarette smoking tops the list as one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to lower your risk, there are a number of medications that have proven effective.”

Palmetto Health Heart Hospital supports Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association’s national call for women to take charge of their health and live longer, healthier lives. The goal of this ongoing, nationwide campaign is for women to recognize and reduce their risk for heart disease.