Prevention of Heart Disease in Women

The American Heart Association (AHA) has revised and updated its guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. No longer are the terms “low risk” and “intermediate risk” used. Women are either classified as having “ideal risk,” or being “at risk” or “high risk.”

Think you are at low or ideal cardiovascular risk? Low/ideal risk women are defined as having all seven characteristics:

  1. Non-HDL cholesterol level below 130 mg/dL if untreated
  2. Blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm Hg if untreated
  3. Fasting blood glucose level below 100 mg/dL if untreated
  4. A body mass index (BMI) below 24 kg/m2
  5. Abstinence from smoking
  6. Physical meeting goals for adults above 20 years
  7. A diet similar to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)

The new dietary recommendations are more prescriptive than the previous guidelines, and they include:

  1. At least 4.5 cups per day of fruits and vegetables
  2. A minimum of 30 grams of dietary fiber per day
  3. At least 3 servings of whole grains per day
  4. No more than 5 tablespoons of sugar per week
  5. At least 4 servings of nuts per week
  6. No more than 7% of total energy from saturated fat
  7. Dietary cholesterol intake below 150 mg per day
  8. Sodium not to exceed 1500 mg per day

These new guidelines emphasize that women should avoid therapies that do not have demonstrated benefit or ones where risks outweigh the benefits such as:

  • HRT outside of menopausal symptoms
  • Antioxidant supplements
  • Folic acid supplementation except during childbearing years
  • Regular use of aspirin in healthy women under 65 years old

How are you doing in these areas? These are the most stringent guidelines ever published by the AHA! However, if they could be sustained in a majority of the population, women would see a significant reduction in their risk of cardiovascular disease. This is a worthy goal, indeed.