Take steps to ward off heart disease

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 7:18 p.m.

Let's take a few minutes today to consider matters of the heart.

Despite significant progress in getting the word out, most women don't take their risk of heart disease seriously.

So here are the numbers: one in three women has some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

And more women die of cardiovascular disease than the next five causes of death combined. That includes cancer.

All too often, women fail to make the connection between risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and their own chance of developing heart disease.

Heart disease affects women of color at a disproportionate level. African-American and Hispanic women in particular have high rates of the major risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Heart disease develops gradually, although a woman's risk rises significantly after she passes the age of 40.

Among the many health-care professionals focused on the increase in heart disease is Dr. Arthur Agatston, the Miami-based cardiologist behind the popular South Beach diet.

Agatston has a brand-new book out, "The South Beach Heart Health Revolution," which he hopes will spark a major change in Americans' heart health. He's a strong believer in the power of aggressive prevention to ward off heart disease.

His key steps to prevention include:

Follow the South Beach diet plan to maintain a healthy weight, improve your cholesterol, triglycerides and other blood fats, and lower your blood pressure.

Incorporate a comprehensive but simple workout to stretch muscles, burn fat and improve your cardiovascular system.

Get the right diagnostic tests to detect heart disease while it can still be slowed or reversed.

Take the right medications to increase good cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and control other risk factors for heart disease.

'Go Red'

The regional office of the American Heart Association has issued a casting call, of sorts.

They're looking for survivors, family members, friends or health professionals to share their stories of women and heart disease as part of the "Go Red For Women" campaign.

For every heart, they believe, there is a story.

If you'd like to share yours, you can submit it online at www.GoRedForWomen.org. Winners of the nationwide contest will join Marie Osmond on an upcoming television special on women and heart disease.

While you're on the Go Red Web site, you can take the Heart Checkup to determine your own 10-year risk of heart disease.

Call it a Valentine to yourself.

Diane Chun can be reached at 352-374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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