by Alexis Peraino, M.D., FACP & Leon Henderson-MacLennan, M.D., FACP
Internal Medicine at California Health & Longevity Institute
February has been recognized as American Heart Month and in conjunction, the American Heart Association has created Go Red for Women, a national movement inspired to end heart disease and stroke in women. Now the leading cause of death among women, heart disease kills 1 in 3 women each year or one almost every 60 seconds. The symptoms of heart disease vary between women and men, with women experiencing more subtle and less recognizable symptoms. Furthermore, 90% of women have at least one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease affects the blood vessels of the heart and cardiovascular system. Most problems result from the buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Once plaque begins to form, blood has a harder time passing through the narrowed arteries to get to the respective organs. A stroke or heart attack can occur if the arteries are completely blocked and the blood flow is stopped.
Know Your Risk
We recommend our patients take an active role in their cardiovascular disease prevention. By knowing your personal risk and seeking the right education and care, heart disease can be treated and even prevented. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors. Even though many are not modifiable; such as gender, race, age, and family history, many others are! Blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels, weight, and daily habits may all be controlled with treatment and lifestyle changes and studies have shown that healthy lifestyles significantly lower total cardiovascular risk.
Prevention in Action
Key Numbers to Watch
HDL ‘good’ Cholesterol (goal >40 and optimal >59) and Total Cholesterol
Optimal cholesterol levels helps prevent against development of atherosclerotic blood vessels. Talk to your doctor about target goals given your risk factors.
Blood Pressure (ideal levels are <120/80
Elevated blood pressure strains your heart, kidney and blood vessels therefore increasing risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Blood Sugar (ideal levels are <100)
High blood sugar can lead to diabetes and contribute to heart disease, kidney disease, nerve and eye damage.
Body Mass Index (ideal levels are > 18.5 and <25)
Excess body weight increases cardiovascular risk. Reducing BMI not only lowers cardiovascular risk but also risk of diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.
3 Heart Healthy Choices to Make Every
1. Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
– Choose the Mediterranean Diet to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
– Focus on lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat diary
– Work with a Dietitian to ensure your diet also aids in controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes
2. Become Active
– Daily exercise improves quality of life, reduces weight, and decreases stress
– Choose aerobic exercise to improve fitness levels and reduces cardiovascular risk
– Consult an Exercise Physiologist for a targeted routine
3. Stop Smoking
– Even one cigarette per day increases your risk of heart disease
– Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation tools and medications to help you quit for good