January 30, 2007 > National Wear Red Day Focuses on Heart Health
National Wear Red Day Focuses on Heart Health
Washington Hospital Doctor Encourages Women to Reduce Risk Factors
If you are a woman over 50, you may think your greatest health threat is breast cancer. Wrong. It's heart disease. Helping women understand their risk of developing heart disease is the focus of National Wear Red Day on February 2.
The truth is one out of every three American women dies of heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). National Wear Red Day is part of the NHLBI's Heart Truth campaign designed to raise awareness about heart disease among women.
Focus groups with women from across the country were conducted in 2001 and the research overwhelming revealed that most women underestimate their personal risk of developing heart disease and do not fully understand the devastating impact heart disease can have on your life.
"The problem is, many people think of heart disease as a man's disease," said Dr. David Berke, a cardiologist at Washington Hospital. "Estrogen protects women from heart disease before menopause. After age 65, the risk of heart disease is equal for both men and women."
The Heart Truth for Women
Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease. It develops over time and can start as early as the teenage years.
During midlife, the risk of developing heart disease starts to increase. One in eight women ages 45 to 64 has coronary heart disease. The number jumps to one in four after age 65.
About 6 million American women have coronary heart disease. Once you are diagnosed with coronary heart disease, you will have it for the rest of your life, and there is no quick fix. There are special procedures such as an angioplasty that can help, but heart disease will worsen unless treated with lifestyle changes and/or medication.
The statistics provided by the NHLBI are rather frightening. For example, 23 percent of women will die within one year after having an initial heart attack. About 35 percent of women who have a heart attack will have another one within six years. Half of women who have a heart attack will be disabled within six years with heart failure, a life-threatening condition wherein the heart cannot pump enough blood to supply the body's needs.
Lifestyle is Key to Reducing Risk
Two risk factors for developing heart disease that cannot be controlled are family history of heart disease and age. However, the other risk factors can be significantly reduced though lifestyle choices.
"The best use of your time and effort in preventing the serious consequences of heart disease is to modify your risk through lifestyle choices," Berke said. "What you eat and how you live has the biggest impact on your heart."
Risk factors that you can control include:
Smoking - Cigarette smoking can greatly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, not to mention lung cancer and other serious diseases.
High blood pressure - High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
High blood cholesterol - The bloodstream carries cholesterol in particles called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins or LDL is often called "bad cholesterol" because too much of it can injure arteries, especially the coronary ones that supply the heart.
Overweight - Extra pounds increase your risk of developing heart disease, even if you have no other risk factors, as well as stroke and congestive heart failure.
Physical inactivity - Not getting enough physical activity offers a double whammy. Not only does it increase your risk of heart disease, it increases your risk of developing other heart disease risk factors, including weight gain, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Diabetes - If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk of developing heart disease. In addition to physical inactivity, being overweight increases your risk of diabetes.
"Many of these risk factors are tied together," said Berke. "That's why it is so important to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating right, reducing your intake of animal fats and trans fats, exercising and keeping your weight down."
To protect your heart health, you need to determine your own personal risk of developing heart disease. Know that every risk factor counts and having more than one risk factor is especially dangerous.
To learn more about National Wear Red Day and heart disease, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/hearttruth.
For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit www.whhs.com.
On Tuesday, February 13 from 1 to 3 p.m., Washington Hospital will host a free Health & Wellness seminar titled: "Take Care of Your Heart Healthy Valentine Diet." At this seminar, you will learn more about the early signs of a heart attack, risk factors of heart disease, as well as prevention and a heart healthy diet. A Washington Hospital medical staff physician and a clinical registered dietitian will present this lecture. The seminar will take place in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont. Call (800) 963-7070 to register.