May 13, 2013 through May 18, 2013 is National Women’s Health Week. Often the caregivers for the rest of the family, women sometimes take better care of others than they do for themselves. Not only are they more likely to neglect their own health care, the added stress and responsibility of care giving can increase their risk for health conditions like heart disease, according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion. At every age, women can take steps to help prevent heart disease.
Age 18 – 39
Women in this age group need to be aware of their blood pressure and have it tested every two years, as long as it is within the normal range (lower than 120/80). Women should have their blood pressure monitored at least once a year if it is higher than 120/80, but under 139/89. If blood pressure readings are 140/90 or higher, women need to discuss a plan to lower and control their blood pressure with their health care provider. At the age of 20, all women should have their cholesterol checked to make sure they are in the normal range. (LDL less than 129, HDL of 60 and above, Triglycerides less than 150)
The American Heart Association advises women in their forties to be aware of changes in their metabolism which may result in weight gain and increase the risk of developing heart disease. From eating a heart healthy diet, to staying active with various physical activities and exercise, women can help prevent premature development of heart disease. Also, it is important to continue to monitor blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Should they go outside the normal ranges; women need to consult with their primary care physician or cardiologist to properly manage their levels.
Age 50 - 64
Continuing to eat a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, and lean protein, like fish, is important in this stage of life. Women need to make sure to get at least 10 minutes of physical activity, like a brisk walk, every day. Women on a treatment plan for high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol need to follow the doctor’s orders to continue to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, it is important to know and recognize the signs of stroke and heart attack. Familiarize yourself with these signs to seek treatment as early as possible to help reduce permanent disability from a stroke or heart attack. The signs of a heart attack for women can often be different that the classic signs men present when having a heart attack.
Age 65 and Older
Age is one of the risk factors for developing heart disease. As women get older, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers tend to rise. Women need to continue to monitor and manage these levels, while eating a healthy diet and staying as active as possible. Eating smaller meals packed with nutrients will help control weight gain, which puts added pressure on the heart. Additional screenings, like the Ankle/Brachial Index, should be performed every one to two years with a regular physical exam. Oklahoma Heart Institute offers this life-saving screening test, as well as others to help give women a full picture of their risk of heart disease. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (918) 592-0999.