According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in three American women has some form of cardiovascular disease. /1 Cardiovascular disease is a catch-all diagnosis which includes: strokes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, hardening of the blood vessels and some birth defects. It is the number one killer of American women. In fact, more than twice the number of women die from heart attacks or strokes than die from all forms of cancer./2
See your doctor for a screening
There are seven controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease . /3 High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are three of these factors. All contribute to heart disease and lower your chances of surviving a heart attack if you do have one, and in all three cases, you may have them without knowing it.
High blood pressure
The symptoms of high blood pressure or hyper-tension, include dizziness, headaches and nose bleeds. According to the Mayo Clinic, normal blood pressure should be below 120/80Hg. Hypertension is said to begin with pressures over 140/90Hg. The first number is the systolic, the pressure when the heart muscle is contracted. The second number is the diastolic, the pressure when the heart is at rest.
High cholesterol contributes to cardiovascular disease because a fat-like material, called plaque, builds up on the arteries. This build up makes it more difficult for the heart to push the blood through. It can also cause clots to form, leading to strokes./4 Doctors check your cholesterol by running a Lipoprotein test. The optimal level for low density protein (LDL) is 100mg/dl. High cholesterol begins at 160 mg/dl.
People with diabetes are four times more likely to get cardiovascular disease. The most common form of diabetes is called type 2. It occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to break down the sugar in the blood, or when the body becomes “resistant” to insulin. Type 2 diabetes can often be treated by altering diet, though medication is often prescribed as well.
A visit to your doctor will establish a base line for your physical condition. During your examination, the doctor will check your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. If these test results are in the normal range it can take a load off your mind. If the results show higher levels, don’t panic. Instead, realize that, if you correct these problems early, there may be no irreparable damage. As the old saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It was never more true than in the case of cardiovascular disease. The earlier the symptoms are identified the more likely you are to avoid or survive an episode/5
- /1 Center for Disease Control, “Vital and Health Statistics”, (Series 10 Number 242), retrieved November 2009 from www.cdc.gov.
- /2 Ibid.
- /3 American Heart Association, “women, Heart Disease and Stroke”, retrieved February 2, 2009 from http://www.americanheart.org.
- /4 American Heart Association, “LDL and HDL Cholesterol: What's Bad and What's Good?”,(7/2/09), retrieved February 2, 2009 from http://www.americanheart.org.
- /5 Ibid.