coronary heart disease (CHD) has been considered a disease
that primarily affects men. Statistics indicate, however,
that approximately 250,000 women die from CHD, and a 2002
study found that 28 percent of all women above age 50 die
from coronary heart disease, making it the leading cause of
death for women in that age group.
As with men, the reasons women develop CHD vary, but the
most likely risk factors include hypertension, smoking, obesity
and lack of exercise. A recent study in the Journal of
the American Medical Women's Association examined these
factors, and provided the following
suggestions for lowering the risk of CHD:
- Maintain healthy blood pressure. Studies have
found that women with high blood pressure have a 3- to 4-fold
increased risk of CHD, but that even minor reductions in
diastolic blood pressure can have a significant lower the
risk of CHD. Among the best ways to reduce hypertension
are lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity,
reducing weight, and decreasing alcohol and salt intake.
- Quit smoking. To help female smokers fight their
addiction to cigarettes, the researchers recommended using
nicotine replacement products, and adding agents such as
buproprion to reduce cravings. They also stressed the role
of the health practitioner in providing counsel and support.
- Avoid excess weight gain/obesity. While there
is no direct evidence that losing weight alone reduces the
risk of CHD, weight loss does decrease blood pressure and
may improve blood cholesterol levels, both of which are
important factors for heart disease. As with smoking, the
researchers noted that health care providers can affect
their patients by providing information on diet and nutrition
and encouraging them to adopt healthy eating habits.
- Exercise consistently. Dozens of studies have shown
that a lack of exercise can increase the risk of a cardiovascular
event, while regular exercise strengthens the heart and
increases blood flow. Health care providers should encourage
regular exercise as one of the best ways to lower the risk
While coronary heart disease is prevalent in the elderly
female population, it's not inevitable. By living a healthy
lifestyle, exercising regularly, eating a nutritious, well-balanced
diet and avoiding (or stopping) smoking, women can significantly
lower their risk of CHD. Your doctor of chiropractic can create
a lifestyle plan that incorporates elements of the above factors,
and will help reduce your chances of suffering a cardiovascular
Hong S, Friedman J, Alt S. Modifiable risk factors for the
primary prevention of heart disease in women. Journal of
the American Medical Women's Association 2003;58(4), pp.
For more information about women's health issues, go to www.chiroweb.com/find/tellmeabout/women.html.