Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in
women in the United States. American women are 4 to 6 times more likely to die
of heart disease than of breast cancer. Here are some ways you can lower
your risk of having a heart attack.
Smoking: Smoking is the major risk factor
for heart disease in women. More than half of the heart attacks in women younger
than 50 years are related to smoking. If you stop smoking, you can lower your
risk of heart attack by one third within 2 years.
Your chances of quitting smoking are better if
you plan ways of coping with stress (for example, going for walks every day and
doing deep-breathing exercises).
If you smoke more than 1 pack of cigarettes a
day, you might try using nicotine skin patches or nicotine gum to help you quit
smoking. There is also prescription medicine available that can help you make it
through the tough early days and weeks of quitting.
Talk to your doctor about how to stop smoking
and how to keep from starting again.
High Blood Pressure: Treating high blood
pressure can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. If your doctor has
given you medicine to lower your blood pressure, be sure to take it regularly.
Exercise: Brisk walking for 30 to 45
minutes three times a week can cut your risk of heart attack in half. If
you don't exercise much, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to
If it is hard for you to exercise regularly,
find a buddy to walk with or join a group. This may make it easier and safer for
you to exercise often.
Water exercise programs in a swimming pool are
helpful. This type of program is available at many YMCAs and other public
You can use fitness equipment like exercise
bicycles, treadmills and ski machines when bad weather or other reasons keep you
Weight: Exercise and a low-fat diet can
help you lose weight. Being overweight means you have a higher risk for many
health problems, especially diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Your doctor can help you get information about good diets and weight loss
Low-fat Diet: Even if
you are not overweight, keep your fat intake to less than 30 percent of your
total daily calories. Avoid saturated fat (the fat in meats and coconut oil).
This helps lower your risk of a heart attack.
Diabetes: If you have diabetes, regular
exercise, weight control, a low-fat diet and regular doctor visits are
important. If you need to take medicine for diabetes, be sure to take it
Chest Pain: Chest pain is not always
caused by heart disease. See your doctor if physical activity causes you to have
any of these problems:
- Chest pain or pressure in your chest
- Pain in your shoulder, neck or jaw
- Shortness of breath or tiredness that comes on
medicines lower my risk of heart disease?
Cholesterol-lowering medicines lower the risk of
heart attacks in men. However, there is not enough evidence to show that these
medicines work as well in women who have never had a heart attack. If you have
already had 1 heart attack, cholesterol-lowering medicines can lower your risk
of another attack. At this time, it is not clear if estrogen replacement therapy
helps prevent heart attacks in women.
Taking an aspirin every day may lower your risk
of problems if you have coronary artery disease, a heart attack or angina.
Aspirin makes your blood thinner, so it is less likely to make a blood clot.
Angina is chest pain caused by a sudden decrease in the blood supply to the
heart. Medicines called statins, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors may also help
if you have heart problems. Ask your doctor if any of these medicines are
right for you.