Society has made significant strides in the fight against heart disease. Mortality from cardiovascular diseases reduced by 71.1 percent from 1968 to 2016.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December, 2017. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2016, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Morbidity and Mortality: 2012 Chart Book on Cardiovascular and Lung Diseases. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2012. However, there is more work to be done. Cardiovascular diseases, which includes stroke, claim the life of a woman about every 80 seconds.
Many women unaware of personal heart health risk factors
Most women recognize the high stakes associated with heart disease, but many are unaware of their own risk. More than 90 percent of women responding to a recent Morning Consult survey, commissioned by CVS Health, indicated that they believed heart-related conditions are a serious issue. However, only 1 in 6 were aware of their cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, body mass index, or waist circumference. These personal health numbers, along with blood pressure, have important implications for heart health.
To help promote heart health, CVS Health is a national sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women® movement to empower women to take charge of their heart health. In recognition of CVS Health’s support of Go Red For Women, Bayer® Aspirin is sponsoring no cost “Know Your Numbers” heart health screenings at each of our more than 1,100 MinuteClinic locations every Wednesday during the month of February, which is American Heart Month. During these screenings, women will get to know their numbers and learn how they affect risk for heart disease.
Steps to take to reduce risk for heart disease
In addition to learning about personal risk for heart disease, women can take steps to reduce their risk for heart disease and to promote overall health. To reduce heart disease risk, the American Heart Association recommends abiding by “Life’s Simple 7.”American Heart Association. “Life’s Simple 7.” https://www.goredforwomen.org/
Routine physical activity delivers numerous health benefits, including reduced risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends adults engage in moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week or vigorous exercise for at least 75 minutes per week (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember.
A healthy diet incorporates a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all of the food groups. Such a diet should emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and nuts and legumes. It should limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar.
Too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can promote the development of plaque in veins and arteries, which create blockages that can lead to heart disease and stroke. Lowering LDL cholesterol levels can be accomplished by working with a doctor or healthcare provider, and making lifestyle changes, like eating well, staying physically active, and not smoking.
Excess weight can burden the heart, as well as contribute to unhealthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using a body mass index (BMI) calculator can help to determine whether a particular weight is healthy or not.
Manage blood pressure
The damage to blood vessels from undetected or uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure and other serious health threats. High blood pressure levels can be managed by eating a well-balanced, low-sodium diet, getting regular physical activity, managing stress, limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking.
Reduce blood sugar
When blood sugar levels are too high, this often indicates diabetes or pre-diabetes. While diabetes can be managed, it does increase risk for heart disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as losing weight, eating healthy and increasing physical activity, can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes or keep it under control.
Smoking significantly increases risk for coronary heart disease, damaged arteries, blood clots, and aneurysms. These problems, in turn, significantly increase risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. For smokers, quitting can be one of the best ways to reduce risk for heart disease.