American Heart Association Issues Guidelines To Help Prevent Heart Disease in Women
American Heart Association officials on Wednesday announced new guidelines aimed at preventing heart disease in women, Long Island Newsday reports. Based on a review of more than 7,000 published medical studies, the recommendations encourage women to work with health providers to assess their risk of heart disease and devise a prevention strategy based on their risk level (Rabin, Long Island Newsday, 2/5). The guidelines are "generally consistent" with prevention methods advised for both sexes, but they "place greater emphasis" on health issues that more commonly affect women, such as depression, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 2/5). Specifically, AHA recommends the following:
- All women should receive an evaluation of heart health based on the Framingham Risk Score, which takes into account age, total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, smoking status and systolic blood pressure;
- Women with higher risk levels should pursue more aggressive prevention strategies than women with intermediate or low risk levels;
- High-risk women should receive statins, ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers to lower cholesterol;
- Women with blood pressure levels of 140/90 or higher should receive drugs to lower that level;
- High-risk women with low HDL levels should receive niacin-based drugs but not niacin-based supplements;
- Aspirin use is effective for high-risk women, but the risks of bleeding, stroke or stomach problems outweigh the benefit in lower-risk women;
- All women should stop smoking, exercise regularly and eat healthier foods (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 2/5); and
- Women should not receive post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy because it does not appear to reduce the risk of heart disease (Washington Post, 2/5).
A survey accompanying the recommendations found that nearly half of women appear to be aware of the risk of heart disease, an increased percentage from earlier findings, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Of 1,000 survey respondents, 46% correctly cited heart disease as the top cause of death in women. Other surveys show that women perceive cancer to be the most prevalent cause of women's death, Reuters/Inquirer reports (Fox, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/5). The survey also found that 70% of respondents did not know "relevant heart numbers" to determine a personal risk factor, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. In a similar survey in 2000, 34% of women listed heart disease as the leading cause of death.
AHA also has launched an "aggressive public awareness effort" called the Go Red For Women campaign, which includes lapel pins, advertisements and an endorsement by First Lady Laura Bush, the Journal-Constitution reports (Anderson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/5). The Journal reports that the effort represents "a persistent concern among heart and public-health experts" that doctors and female patients view heart disease as a "man's disease" and do not adequately diagnose or treat it. Heart disease has led to the deaths of more women than men over the past 20 years. While heart-related deaths among men declined 12% over that time, the rate among women has remained flat, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 2/5).
The following broadcast programs reported on the guidelines:
- ABCNews' "World News Tonight": The segment includes comments from Dr. Sharonne Hayes of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Lori Mosca of the American Heart Association (McKenzie, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 2/4). The complete transcript of the segment is available online.
- CBS' "Early Show": The segment includes comments from Mosca ("Early Show," CBS, 2/5). The complete transcript and video of the segment in RealPlayer will be available online after the broadcast.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Mosca (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 2/4). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.