Use our Family HealthLink tool to assess your genetic risks for heart disease.
Watch this video to learn the signs of a heart attack.
Download our heart disease fact sheet.
Click here to receive our Family Heart History brochure.
For most people, doing something for 21 days becomes habit. Good thing for you there are 28 days in February. Use the tips included in this heart-healthy calendar to track your progress and your celebrations, one day at a time.
Martha Gulati, MD, has spent her career helping women understand heart disease and teaching them how lifestyle changes can help them live longer, healthier lives.
Hit the Books
OSU Medical Center cardiologist Dr. Gulati teamed up with holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos to write Saving Women's Hearts. The 256-page book takes an in-depth look at conventional and natural medical approaches to heart disease, unique gender differences for women and the latest information about heart disease prevention.
Click here to receive a free copy of Saving Women's Hearts.
Focus groups recently revealed that only 55 percent of women understand that heart disease is their number one killer and fewer than half know the healthy levels for cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure and cholesterol. For men and women both young and old, living a heart-healthy life is a key to a long life.
"The medical community has spent a lot of time treating heart disease, but now we need to spend time teaching people, beginning as early as 20, about preventing risk factors from ever even developing into heart disease," says Martha Gulati, MD, Sarah Ross Soter Endowed Chair in Women's Cardiovascular Health and author of the book Saving Women's Hearts.
There are several risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some you can control and others you cannot. Age, for example, is not modifiable. In addition, family history (which are the genes that can predispose you to heart disease) is a risk factor that is not modifiable. Genetics play a role in your cardiovascular health. Dr. Gulati says your risk for heart disease increases if a female family member suffered a heart attack or stroke before the age of 65 or a male relative experienced cardiovascular disease before the age of 55.
While there's nothing you can do to change your genetic makeup (at least not yet!), you can step up efforts to reduce or remove other heart disease risk factors, which means staying active, eating a healthy diet and not smoking. Dr. Gulati focuses on four key areas with her patients:
High blood pressure
overstresses the heart. If yours is too high or if you are predisposed to develop high blood pressure, it can be lowered with a combination of diet and exercise. For some people, medication may also be necessary.
is a natural substance that the body needs in moderation. It's measured with three values — HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (fat). "Too many women only know their total cholesterol, which can be misleading," Dr. Gulati explains. "A low HDL in women is a greater risk factor for heart disease than it is for men. So while a higher HDL number may slightly raise your total cholesterol number, it can actually be an advantage."
increases heart disease risk more for women than for men. "If you're diabetic or at risk for diabetes, you need to be vigilant about controlling other risk factors for heart disease," Dr. Gulati says.
can significantly reduce heart disease risk factors, Dr. Gulati stresses. "Before I prescribe medication, I like to see what the patient can accomplish through diet, exercise and quitting smoking."
The most important element in a woman's heart health, Dr. Gulati says, is a consultation with her doctor. "Numbers are just guidelines. Every woman needs to set goals with her doctors, empower herself with knowledge and be proactive about protecting her heart's health."
Do the Math
Have you checked your numbers lately?
Less than 120/80 mm Hg is normal.
Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. HDL levels at 50 mg/dL or above are ideal (in contrast with men, where HDL above 40 mg/dL is ideal). LDL levels should ideally be below 100 mg/dL (even lower with certain health issues). Triglycerides should be below 150.
Fasting glucose (sugar) levels below 100 mg/dL means the absence of diabetes.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Normal body mass index (the weight in respect to height squared) should be under 25.
Less than 35 inches is desirable for a woman and less than 40 inches for a man. An apple shape body with a bigger waist circumference predisposes you to diabetes and heart disease.
Ask Your Advocate
Q. How can I lower my blood pressure without medication?
A. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in helping to control high blood pressure. The most important first step is to quit smoking. Additionally, reducing the amount of salt and caffeine you use can help. Finally, exercise, such as brisk walking, for 30 minutes a day can help reduce blood pressure.