Women and Heart Disease
By Michele Bloomquist
May 22, 2000 -- To protect yourself from having a heart attack, you need to reduce your risk factors and know the signs to watch for, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA). Because coronary heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States, being a proactive patient may very well save your life.
The cholesterol-rich plaque that builds up on the walls of heart arteries -- and that leads to coronary heart disease and heart attacks -- starts to form in early childhood and builds over a lifetime. When blood can no longer squeeze through the plaque-narrowed artery or when high blood pressure causes the artery to burst, a heart attack occurs.
While you can change some risk factors for heart disease -- high blood pressure, poor diet, uncontrolled diabetes, and inactivity, for example -- there are others you can't, like genetics and age. The more risk factors you have -- if you're an overweight smoker with high blood pressure, for example -- the higher your chances of having a heart attack.
Don't be shy about starting the discussion about heart health with your doctor and asking for appropriate testing and treatment. "Preventing heart disease before it occurs or leads to a heart attack is the best solution," says Goldberg. Here are some prevention tips from the AHA:
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