Heart disease and stroke prevention
from womenshealth.gov, Jan. 13, 2012
The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), in
which plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the
heart. Over time, this plaque buildup causes the arteries to narrow and
harden, and this keeps the heart from getting all the blood it needs. Blood
clots may develop. If the clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the
heart, it causes a heart attack. Stroke happens when the brain doesnt get
enough blood. Without enough blood, brain cells start to die.
Heart attack, stroke,
and other forms of heart
disease are a threat to so
many women. But you can take steps to protect your heart and lower your
risk. Steps include getting regular physical
activity, making healthy
food choices, knowing
your numbers and taking
good care of yourself overall.
It is also important to make sure you talk to your doctor about heart health
and the use of menopausal
hormone therapy or aspirin.
You don't have to become a super athlete, but your body needs to move. The
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that an active
lifestyle can lower your risk of early death from heart disease, stroke, and
many other health problems. It can also boost your mood. Health benefits are
gained by doing the following each week:
hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of
vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- A combination of moderate and
vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or
So pick an activity you like, and do it often.
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Eating fatty, greasy food can make you put on weight. But that's not the
only risk. Unhealthy eating has a direct impact on your arteries, your blood
pressure, your glucose level, among other things. You don't need to go on a
special diet to eat healthy. Just make sure you focus on eating fruits and
vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, beans,
peas, nuts, and lean meats. The foods you eat should also be low in
saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol (koh-LESS-tur-ol), salt, and added
sugars. If you drink alcohol, do it moderately. Women should drink no more
than one alcoholic drink per day.
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Knowing your numbers
Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL,
and triglycerides) and blood sugar levels. These simple screening tests will
give you important information about your heart health. Your doctor can tell
you what your numbers mean and what you need to do to protect your heart.
Check out the Screening
tests and vaccines section on
this site to learn how often you need these screening tests.
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Taking care of yourself
Stress, anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep have all been linked to
increased risk of heart disease. And they're not doing your mind or the rest
of your body any good either. You may feel that you don't have enough time
to take a break or get enough sleep now. But the possible results of
overloading yourself, including heart attack and stroke, aren't worth it. In
the midst of all you do, it's important to make time for yourself. Make sure
you get the amount of sleep you need each day to wake up feeling refreshed.
Take steps to keep stress in check, such as taking time each day to relax
and unwind with friends or loved ones. And if you're having trouble coping
because of depression, anxiety, or other emotional health issues, get help.
Your doctor or a counselor can teach you healthy ways to reduce stress or
suggest treatment for depression or other mental health problems. Although
we don't know if treating emotional problems or reducing stress lowers heart
disease risk, doing so will boost your overall health and well-being.
Does menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) prevent heart disease?
Once you reach menopause, your ovaries stop making estrogen, which protects
against plaque buildup, and your heart disease risk goes up. You might
wonder if menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) can help lower the risk. But
recent studies confirmed that women should not use MHT to protect against
heart disease. Rather, MHT is good at relieving moderate to severe symptoms
of menopause and preventing bone loss. For now, the safest option for MHT is
to use the lowest dose that helps for the shortest time you need it. Learn
more about study findings and the benefits and risks of MHT in our menopause section.
Do I need aspirin?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women ages 55 to 79
take aspirin to lower their risk ofischemic
stroke. This is advised when the benefit outweighs the possible
harm of gastrointestinal bleeding.
The benefit depends on your personal risk of both stroke and
gastrointestinal bleeding. You should discuss your risk with your doctor and
decide together if taking aspirin is right for you.
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More information on heart disease and stroke prevention
Read more from womenshealth.gov
A Lifetime of Good Health: Your Guide to Staying Healthy
This guide to staying healthy provides information on women's health needs
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control all risk factors for diseases, such as your age or family history,
you can control many risk factors by following the key preventive steps
included in the guide.
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This fact sheet on women and heart disease includes information about risk
factors, prevention, and treatment of heart disease.
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This fact sheet answers questions about stroke, including information
about warning signs, effects, and risk factors.
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Healthy Living After Stroke (Copyright © American Stroke Association)
People who have had a stroke in the past are at higher risk of having
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Heart Attack Risk Assessment (Copyright © American Heart Association)
The American Heart Association has developed a heart attack and
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years and older who do not already have heart disease or diabetes. After
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Heart Disease and Heart Attacks: What Women Need to Know (Copyright ©
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Women are at risk of heart attack just like men, but the signs and
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Lifestyle Changes (Copyright © American Heart Association)
this web page explains the ABCs of preventing heart attack and stroke:
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If you suspect your diagnosis of heart disease was incorrect, you might
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physical activity that can be sustained. Find out about the importance of
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