(Feb. 6, 2009)
Preventing heart disease, the leading killer of women in America, begins with “knowing your numbers,” says East Carolina University cardiologist Dr. Noel Peterson.
Those numbers are blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, tests that assess risk factors for heart disease, said Peterson, who spoke at the Wear Red for Women luncheon on Feb. 5 in the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.
Statistics show heart attacks kill six times more women than breast cancer, and 635,000 women in the United States suffer a heart attack each year. Thirty-two percent of American women die of cardiovascular disease, resulting in one death every minute, Peterson said.
About one out of nine women ages 45 to 64 have cardiovascular disease, she said.
“Oftentimes women do not recognize the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, which can range from typical crushing chest pain to mild chest discomfort, arm pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath and fatigue,” Peterson said.
Women often “write off” atypical symptoms as something else and don’t seek or delay treatment.
“Studies show women are not being treated as aggressively as men,” Peterson said.
Preventing heart disease means controlling high blood pressure. To reduce it, women should lose weight if overweight, follow a healthy diet, increase physical activity and limit alcohol to one drink per day although abstinence is best.
Smoking is the most preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Peterson said.
To lower cholesterol, women are advised to cut down on fatty meats, butter and egg yolk, eat less saturated fats, eat more fiber and be physically active at least 30 minutes a day.
Obesity is a risk for diabetes, and obesity rates have tripled for all age groups since the 1970s.
Exercise should be “5 for 50” or five days a week for 50 minutes. Incorporate strength training three days a week, Peterson said.
“Being active is not the same as exercise,” she said. “You need to raise your heart rate.”
For more information, Peterson suggested participants go online to check their risk of heart disease at http://www.reynoldsriskscore.org/
or by checking the Framingham Risk Calculator.
Events like Wear Red for Women are important to raise awareness of the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and empower women to take steps to change their lifestyles and lower their risk of heart disease, she said.
The event was sponsored by ACT-WEL, campus recreation and wellness, the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU, ECU Physicians, the Committee on the Status of Women and ECU human resources.