Imagine this: complications of pregnancy can foreshadow future heart disease or stroke for women and constitute a risk right up there with flunking an exercise stress test used to diagnose heart disease. Depression can be a factor, too, but here there’s a twist: depression itself doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease, but not following medical advice because you’re depressed can pose a threat.
Listening in on a conference call discussion of the new
As for depression, the guidelines call upon physicians to screen women for this common problem as part of an overall all evaluation for cardiovascular risk.
The new guidelines also flagged rheumatoid arthritis and lupus as risk factors because inflammation is involved in them, as it is in heart disease. Among the other recommendations:
- Limit salt intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day (this is particularly important for African-American women because they tend to be more prone to high blood pressure that is salt sensitive).
- Limit sugar intake to five servings a week (this is designed to curb obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease).
- Avoid hormone replacement therapy for prevention of heart attack and stroke (it doesn’t help); the guidelines also found no need for such supplements as folic acid, antioxidant vitamins and beta-carotene for prevention of cardiovascular disease.
- Low dose aspirin can be protective for women who already have heart disease, but isn’t recommended for other women under 65.
Perhaps the most mind-blowing news I heard on the conference call came from Suzanne Haynes, Ph.D., of the
Women can develop atypical symptoms of a heart attack including upper body pain and pain through the arms, shoulder, neck, jaw and upper stomach. Shortness of breath is another cue, as is unusual or unexpected fatigue. Suspect that those symptoms might mean a heart attack “when they’re sudden, unusual or profound, something you’ve never felt before in your life,” said Dr. Haynes.
If that happens, forget the house, the make-up and the sensitivities of the ambulance crew. Call 911.
How worried are you about your own risk of heart disease?
CONNECT THE DOTS
The government campaign to get more women to pick up the phone if they develop heart symptoms is called