Primary Prevention and Treatment in Women
More women die of heart disease than of breast cancer.
Women are also more likely to die from a heart attack than men.
Common Risk Factors:
High blood pressure
High LDL cholesterol
Low HDL cholesterol
Family history of early heart disease
Sedentary life style
Lowering LDL cholesterol with statins can prevent cardiovascular disease.
A recent study analyzed the effects of 27 trials including 174,000 people and found women gain the same benefits from statins as men. Prior to this study the value of treating healthy women with risk factors to prevent heart disease was not clear.
We have known lowering cholesterol after a heart attack or stroke is beneficial in both men and women, but this new study confirms statin drugs are also valuable in preventing cardiovascular disease in women. Statin treatment improves overall survival by reducing the liver’s production of cholesterol.
Men develop heart disease at a younger age than women, likely because estrogen in women is protective. Following menopause, risk for heart disease in women climbs especially in those who smoke.
People with diabetes have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease affecting the coronary arteries in the heart, arteries in the brain, and small arteries in the eyes and kidneys. Last summer, another study important to women showed diabetic women had a 30% reduction in the risk of dying of heart attack or stroke when treated with another cholesterol modifying drug, fenofibrate.
Many scientific studies over decades have shown the benefit of lowering low-density lipoprotein LDL cholesterol to prevent heart attacks and strokes. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, (think “L” for Lard as a way to remember LDL as the bad cholesterol) and that you want it Low. This is the cholesterol that clogs arteries similar to the way lard solidifies if poured down a drain.
Triglycerides, another form of cholesterol often elevated in diabetics, obesity, and as a familial disorder, contribute to heart and vascular disease. This must also be lowered to reduce risk.
The high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the transport molecule that moves LDL out of the arteries. The HDL is the “good” cholesterol you want High.
Assess and lower risks for heart disease:
• See your doctor. Discuss risk factors and how to modify them.
• Have blood tests: lipid panel and hemoglobin A1c (check for diabetes)
• Assess your cholesterol levels and discuss treatment needs and options
• Reduce saturated fat intake, fried foods – no more than 35% of your daily calories should come from fat
• Attain ideal weight
• Exercise at least thirty minutes a day – If you’re healthy but not physically active, starting an aerobic exercise program could increase your good cholesterol by 5% in the first two months. Regular exercise also lowers bad cholesterol.
Remember, high cholesterol does not cause symptoms. It is a silent disease that slowly narrows arteries throughout your body.
For more information on modifying risk factors read additional posts on this site. At www.lipsticklogic.com you will also find articles on women’s health.
Best wishes for good health in 2015.
Betty Kuffel, MD and Bev Erickson