Go Red for Women
Go Red for Women Day is Friday, February 6, 2009. It is a program created by the American Heart Association to promote awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women. CVD is a group of diseases affecting the heart and its blood vessels. Some of these diseases are high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, irregular heart beat, and heart failure, all of which increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Awareness of CVD in women is important for several reasons. CVD is the largest single cause of death in women. It accounts for one-third of deaths in women worldwide. In the United States and many other countries, more women than men die of CVD each year. Thirty-four percent of women in the United States live with CVD. The number of women at risk for developing CVD is even larger. The prevention of CVD in women can not be emphasized enough. A 2% reduction in the death rate due to chronic diseases associated with CVD over 10 years would prevent 36 million deaths.
In addition to the cost of many lives, the economic impact of CVD is large as well. An estimated $403 billion was spent in 2006 on healthcare or in lost productivity as a result of CVD. By comparison, $190 billion was spent on cancer and $29 was spent on HIV disease.
Women should know their risk factors for developing CVD. High risk factors include established coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, end-stage or chronic kidney disease and diabetes. Women at risk for CVD include those who smoke cigarettes, have a poor diet, have a history of physical inactivity, are obese, have a family history of CVD at an early age, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
There are many ways CVD can be prevented. Lifestyle changes include the following:
- Cigarette smoking- Women should not smoke and should avoid second-hand smoke. Women who do smoke should get help to stop. Your healthcare provider can help.
- Exercise- Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on five or more days per week can be enough to reduce risk of CVD.
- Diet- A woman’s diet should be rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high- fiber foods. Fish should be eaten at least 2 times per week. Limiting salt, fat, and alcohol is also important.
- Weight management/reduction- Women should maintain or lose weight through the right balance of diet an exercise. A Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 and a waist circumference of less than 35 inches is ideal for reducing the risk of CVD.
- Interventions for major risk factors of CVD include:
- Blood pressure- Optimal blood pressure of less than 120/80 can be achieved through lifestyle approaches such as weight control, increased physical activity, healthy diet and limited alcohol intake. Medications to lower blood pressure are often prescribed when blood pressure is over 140/90. For women with chronic kidney disease or diabetes, medications may be prescribed for blood pressure over 130/80.
- Cholesterol levels- There are usually four levels of cholesterol to be considered
- Total cholesterol should be less than 200mg/dL
- HDL or “good” cholesterol should be higher than 50mg/dL
- LDL or “bad” cholesterol should be less than 100mg/dL
- Triglycerides should be less than 150mg/dL
- Women with other risk factors such as diabetes may be held to levels even more stringent than these.
Join women across the country this Friday, February 6th by wearing red to show your support in the awareness of and prevention of CVD in women. To help assess your risk factors for CVD and to find out what you can do about them, talk to your health care provider. For more information, go on-line to the American Heart Association at www.goredforwomen.org.