Guidelines Help Women Prevent Heart Disease

Published Online: Saturday, May 1, 2004

The American Heart Association (AHA) has issued new guidelines for preventing heart disease and stroke in women based on their risk level. It is the first time that "evidence-based" recommendations are being made. Despite the fact that nearly every minute a woman in the United States dies of cardiovascular disease, not many women consider it their greatest health risk. The guidelines are based on analysis of medical literature and scientific studies and were written by experts from the AHA and other professional and governmental organizations. Overall, the guidelines suggest that all women follow a heart-healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, and not smoke. More specifically, the guidelines recommend the following:

  • A woman's individual level of risk should be determined by a physician
  • Different strategies should be used for women at low risk (defined as those who have a <10% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years), intermediate risk (a 10% to 20% chance of a heart attack in the next decade), or high risk (a >20% chance of an attack)

Other recommendations were made that depend on a woman's health status. For example, daily aspirin is recommended for high-risk women, but not for low-risk women. For intermediate- risk women, aspirin therapy should be considered only if their blood pressure is under control and their physician decides that the risk?benefit ratio is in their favor.Women at any risk level, however, should not take hormone replacement therapy or antioxidant vitamin supplements, according to these guidelines.

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