American Heart Association updates advice for women

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Late last week the American Heart Association (AHA) issued updated guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. The new guidelines are a revision of those most recently endorsed in 2007.

While the risk of heart disease among women has fallen on an age-adjusted basis by roughly one-third since 1980, it remains the leading killer of American women. Indeed, the lifetime risk of heart disease for women is still close to 50 percent. Women who are defined as high-risk have a ten percent chance of suffering an adverse cardiovascular event within ten years. Among the factors which may place a women at high-risk are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia.

Much of the advice presented by the AHA is, as ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says, “not new”. Among the familiar recommendations are that taking aspirin, losing weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking may be effective ways to reduce the likelihood of adverse cardiovascular events. The report also includes the increasingly common suggestion that high-risk women over the age of 60 with elevated levels of C-reactive protein may be well-advised to take a regimen of statins.

However, the focus on preeclampsia might be news for some women, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. Preeclampsia is a condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine. A recent meta-analysis has found that the condition is linked to a two-times higher chance of suffering from ischemic heart disease, stroke and venous thromboembolism over a five to 15-year period following a child’s birth. Dr. Ross comments: “This is a significant finding that many American women may not know about but which they ought to know about.”