Minimizing risk for heart disease in women

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Many women think coronary artery disease is just a man’s problem.

It isn’t!

More than half a million women will die from some form of cardiovascular disease this year. In fact, after age 50, nearly half of all deaths in women are due to some form of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than all cancers combined.

“But there is a bright side,” explains JoAnn Donoghue, MD, board-certified cardiologist at the Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center Women’s Center in the Healing Arts Pavilion located in New Lenox. “Women develop heart disease later than men. So they can use that time to modify their risk factors.”

Donoghue recommends the following tips to lower your chances of developing heart disease:• Know your blood pressure. “Years of high blood pressure can lead to heart disease. Have it checked every one to two years, and get treatment if you need it.”

Don’t smoke. “If you’re having trouble quitting, there are products and programs that can help, including nicotine patches and gums, support groups.”

Get tested for diabetes. “People with diabetes have high blood glucose. And having diabetes raises your chances of getting heart disease. Your physician will decide if you need pills or insulin shots and can help you develop a healthy eating and exercise plan.”

Get your cholesterol and triglyceride levels tested. High cholesterol can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting blood it needs, causing a heart attack. Triglycerides are a form of fat in your blood stream. High levels of triglycerides are linked to heart disease. “People with high cholesterol or high blood triglycerides often have no symptoms, which makes it vital to have both levels checked regularly. If your levels are high, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower them. Sometimes eating better and exercising more is enough, or your doctor may prescribe medication.”

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight raises your risk for heart disease. Healthy food choices and physical activity are important for maintaining a healthy weight. “Start by adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet,” Donoghue said. “Each week, plan to get a minimum of 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity, 1 ¼ hours of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.”

If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than one drink a day. That’s equivalent to one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of liquor a day.

Find healthy ways to cope with stress. “Nurturing others comes naturally to many women. Unfortunately, nurturing themselves often seems less natural. If we consistently put our own well-being last, stress takes a toll on our mind and bodies,” Donoghue warns.

Exactly how and why high levels of stress harm the heart is not completely understood. “Stressed-out people can unknowingly worsen the problem by the choices they make, such as smoking, overeating or drinking too much.” For stress relief, Dr. Donoghue recommends relaxation techniques like yoga, exercise, talking with friends or writing in a journal.

While heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, it’s never too late to improve your heart health starting today. If you or someone you know is at risk for heart disease, take steps now to ensure a heart-healthy future.

For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Donoghue at the Presence Women’s Center, call (815) 462-5566.

The Women’s Center is located in the Presence Healing Arts Pavilion, 410 E. Lincoln Highway in New Lenox.

Provided by Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center