Women: ALOHA Means Goodbye to Heart Disease!
Aloha! In Hawaii, it means both Hello and Goodbye. But when it comes to women and heart disease, ALOHA has a completely new meaning. Read all about it below.
In the United States, more than half a million women die of cardiovascular disease each year. Unbelievably, this exceeds the number of deaths in men. It also exceeds the next seven causes of death in women combined. The majority of heart-related deaths in women are from coronary artery disease (CAD)—the artery-clogging disease that eventually chokes off the blood supply to the heart. This reduced blood supply results in angina (chest pain) or a heart attack. Nearly two-thirds of the women who die suddenly from CAD have no previously recognized symptoms. So it is essential for women to prevent CAD by increasing awareness and promoting actions to reduce the risk factors of a heart attack, even if you’ve never had a symptom.
If you are a woman, think ALOHA! It can help you take steps toward a heart-healthy life.
These guidelines were created by The American Heart Association and 11 other leading national health organizations.
A—Assess your risk and rank yourself as high, intermediate, or lower risk.
L—Lifestyle recommendations are priority No. 1 in heart disease prevention.
H—Highest priority for therapy is for women at highest risk.
A—Avoid medical therapies that can increase your risk for heart disease
Let’s look more closely at each step.
A = Assess your risk
Use the charts below to assess your own risk of heart disease.
Find your point score in each of the five left-hand boxes. Add them up to get your Point Total. Find that point value in the right-hand box, and you will also see an estimate of your 10-year risk as a percent. A risk greater than 20% in 10 years is considered high risk. Intermediate risk ranges from 10% to 20%; low risk is less than 10%
Share your results with your physician to discuss the next steps.
L = Lifestyle Recommendations
No matter what your risk score is, you need to make living a healthy lifestyle a top priority. Here are some helpful hints:
- Stop smoking cigarettes and avoid secondhand tobacco smoke.
- Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
- Start a cardiac rehabilitation program if you’ve recently been hospitalized for or had a procedure for heart disease.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, legumes, and sources of protein that are low in saturated fat, such as poultry, lean meats, and plant sources. Limit your intake of trans fatty acids such as those found in hydrogenated oils.
- To maintain a healthy weight, balance the calories you take in with the amount you use up each day. To lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you take in. (translation: Exercise! Perhaps a hula class?) If you need to, enroll in a formal weight-loss program.
O = Other interventions
These interventions include lowering high blood pressure, keeping cholesterol values low, and if you have diabetes, keeping blood sugars tightly controlled. You need to be aware of your numbers for each of these values, and seek treatment from your physician if they are higher than the numbers recommended below.
Blood pressure: Try to keep it at less than 120/80 mmHg. If there’s even a slight rise in pressure, your first line of self-defense is to improve your lifestyle (see above). If your blood pressure stays at 140/90 or higher (or greater than 130/80 if you have diabetes), talk to your doctor about taking medications to control it.
Cholesterol levels: It’s important for women to know these levels. Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL; LDL (bad cholesterol), less than 100 mg/dL; HDL (good cholesterol), more than 50 mg/dL; and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), less than 150 mg/dL. Learn your numbers, and keep them low!
Diabetes (high blood sugar) is becoming more common in the United States. Unhealthy eating habits and gaining too much weight are leading causes of type II (adult onset) diabetes. If you don’t keep tight control, diabetes can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Diet, exercise, and medication are the keys to normal blood sugar levels.
H = Highest Priority for Therapy Is Women at Highest Risk
The women at the highest risk are those who have already had cardiovascular disease, or who have diabetes or chronic kidney disease. If this is you, consult your physician! Several medications can be used to prevent first or second heart attacks in women who are at high risk. These include ACE inhibitors, aspirin, beta-blockers, statins, niacin, fibrates, and warfarin. Your doctor will recommend appropriate therapy in this area. Other recommendations are to assess and treat any underlying depression, and to supplement your diet with folic acid and Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil supplements).
A = Avoid medications that can increase your risk of heart disease.
Among these medications:
HRT: We now know that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does not have any benefit in preventing heart disease, and in some women may increase the risk of a heart attack. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT in your own case.
Antioxidants: Supplements such as vitamin E and beta-carotene should not be routinely used to prevent heart disease. These vitamins, popular for heart disease prevention in the past, have not been effective in reducing cardiac events in scientific studies—with the exception of fish oils, which have proven effective.
Aspirin: For low-risk patients, aspirin is not recommended because the risks of stomach bleeding or ulcers may outweigh any possible benefits.
By following these guidelines and working with your doctor you can help yourself to say ALOHA (good bye) to heart disease!
If you can’t actually travel to Hawaii to celebrate using the ALOHA guidelines, try this tasty tropical treat!
Tropical Mango Cake
Serves 18; 2 x 3-inch piece per serving
Vegetable oil spray
1 8.5-ounce box yellow cake mix with pudding (choose one that call for 1-1/4 cups water)
1-1/4 cups water
6 ounces baby food pureed pears
Whites of 3 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated peeled gingerroot
1 medium mangoes, diced
1 12-ounce container frozen fat-free or low-fat whipped topping (optional)
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 13x9x2 –inch baking pan with vegetable spray.
In a large bowl, stir together cake ingredients. Using an electric mixer, mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, scraping side occasionally. Pour into baking pan.
Bake for 32 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, put orange juice and cornstarch in small saucepan. Stir until cornstarch is completely dissol