Pregnancy Problems Can Increase Heart Disease/Stroke Risk


Young women who develop diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease as they get older compared to women without gestational diabetes (study published Diabetes Care 2008).

Women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to develop coronary artery disease than women who maintained a normal blood pressure during pregnancy. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy also develop significant narrowings in coronary arteries at an earlier age, about 3 years earlier (Journal Hypertension April 2009).

Women who experience pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke and develop blood clots later in life (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2009).

Women with a family history of premature heart disease are at an increased risk. All of these pregnancy problems that occur in younger women need to be recognized as predictors of future heart problems. Unfortunately many gynecologists, primary care physicians and cardiologists are unaware of the increased risk in these women. That is why the public needs to remain informed! Learn you risk factors for heart problems. 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable.

“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” discusses how women can help control their cholesterol and other risk factors to prevent a heart attack, stroke and diabetes. “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthier Heart” is due to be released Fall 2009. For more info visit


World Heart Day 2009


What is World Heart Day?

worldheart day
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared September 27 as World Heart Day to create awareness about taking proper care of the heart to avoid various cardiovascular diseases that have become the major killers in the world. As per WHO figures, heart diseases and stroke are the first and second leading causes of death for adult men and women in developed countries.

 Visit to find out more information about World Heart Day 2009-09-27

Visit to find more info about heart disease and resources available.


Routine ECGs May Help Predict Sudden Cardiac Death


 12 lead ECG

ECGs should be a routine part of every adult’s annual physical exam.  ECGs can help identify heart muscle damage, heart enlargement and irregular heart rhythms.  A new study published in the August 2009 edition of The European Heart Journal states that ECGs may also be able to help identify people at risk for Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD).  The study suggests that increases in the QRS duration (the electrical activity from the ventricles, which are the bottom chambers of the heart) are significant predictors of SCD.  The researchers in this study excluded patients with known causes of SCD (i.e.: bundle branch blocks or hypertrophy which is an enlargement of the heart muscle).  

This is an interesting initial evaluation that needs to be investigated further but again stresses the importance of routine yearly exams.  Men and women with a family history of SCD, stroke and heart disease especially may benefit from this routine screening.  We just need to make sure our health care providers are aware of this relatively new predictor of SCD and send people on for further evaluation.

 For more heart healthy info please visit

Exercise 1 Hour a Week & Lower Your Cholesterol


Previous studies have found that exercise can improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.  This is one of the first studies to find a link between exercise and significant lowering of bad (LDL) cholesterol in women.  This study did not find a benefit in men and this needs to be evaluated further.  Almost 9,000 sedentary middle-aged adults were followed in this 9 year study which was published in The Journal of Lipid Research (August 2009).  

woman walking

 Women who did as little as one hour a week of moderate physical activity (like taking a brisk walk) or 30 minutes of vigorous activity a week had a decrease in their bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.

White women had a 4 mg/dl decrease in LDL cholesterol

African American women had a 10 mg/dl decrease in their LDL cholesterol

 Postmenopausal women had an even greater benefit.

Postmenopausal white women had a 5.9 mg/dl decrease in LDL cholesterol

Postmenopausal African American women had a 14.7 mg/dl decrease in LDL cholesterol

 Now we can all fit 1 hour a week of exercise into our busy schedule.  Your Heart with Thank You!!

“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” discusses how women can help control their cholesterol and other risk factors to prevent a heart attack, stroke and diabetes.  “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthier Heart” is due to be released Fall 2009.  For more info visit

Lower Your Cholesterol with Heart Healthy Choices


from the Living Well Center

For many Americans working toward better heart health, an important first step is getting cholesterol to a healthy level. Diet and exercise are important steps to reduce high cholesterol. However, many people may find that with diet and exercise alone, cholesterol numbers are not where they should be.

More than one hundred million Americans have high cholesterol, an important risk factor for heart disease. Though diet is very important, many people don’t realize that cholesterol is also produced in the body based upon heredity.

Learning about your family health history is important—we recommend talking to your family about their health and creating a family health tree (a sample is available on our Web site). Bringing this information to your next doctor visit will help you discuss your family history regarding cholesterol and other hereditary health concerns.

Understanding Cholesterol

What you eat affects your health, by raising or lowering the blood fats (cholesterol, triglycerides) that circulate through your body. Some foods increase your levels of total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Over the years, excess cholesterol and fat are deposited in the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Eventually, these deposits can make your arteries narrower and less flexible, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Left unchecked, this buildup can lead to heart attack, stroke and death.

Additionally, because of your family health history, your body may be genetically predisposed to make more cholesterol than you may need, in addition to the cholesterol from your food intake.

Know your numbers!

Each one of us has a cholesterol goal level, based upon our individual risk factors and our risk for heart disease. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that everyone age 20 and over have a blood cholesterol test every five years to check their cholesterol levels. To learn more about your goal, visit for the National Cholesterol Education Program’s Live Healthier, Live Longer Web site.

If your cholesterol levels are mildly to moderately higher than your goal, making a few dietary changes may be all you need to get back on track.

According to current NCEP recommendations, people with coronary heart disease or others considered to be at high risk for coronary heart disease generally have an LDL cholesterol goal of less than 100 mg/dL. An LDL cholesterol goal of less than 70 mg/dL is a therapeutic option for people considered to be at very high risk. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to help reduce your LDL cholesterol number to goal.

Here are guidelines for your cholesterol and triglyceride levels according to NCEP guidelines (new guidelines will be released in 2010):

Total blood cholesterol levels
less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200 to 239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL or above High
LDL blood cholesterol levels
less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100 to 129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130 to 159 mg/dL Borderline high
160 to 189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very High
HDL blood cholesterol levels
above 60 mg/dL. Levels above 60 mg/dL are considered especially beneficial and can offset risk factors for heart disease, according to NHLBI. The higher the level, the healthier it is. Optimal
50 to 60 mg/dL for women; 40 to 50 mg/dL for men Average
less than 50 mg/dL for women; less than 40 mg/dL for men. Below these levels is considered a major risk factor for heart disease. Low
Triglyceride levels
less than 150 mg/dL Normal
150 to 199 mg/dL Borderline High
200 to 499 mg/dL High
500 mg/dL or higher Very high

It is important to remember that these recommendations are for healthy individuals, not for women with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, being overweight, smoking or having a family history of heart disease. If you are at risk for heart disease, your target goals likely will be lower.

Fighting Back

There are things that you can do now to help you gain a better understanding of your risk factors and perhaps lower your chances of high cholesterol and heart disease. For starters, it’s important that you eat right, get plenty of exercise, as recommended by your physician, and begin to understand your family health history. A healthy diet may help reduce total cholesterol. In general, you want to get “good” cholesterol higher and “bad” cholesterol lower.

You can still enjoy a wide variety of foods by making healthful dietary choices and changes.

If elevated cholesterol is part of your family genetics, or you have other conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, you may need medication in addition to eating a heart-healthy diet. But whether you have normal cholesterol, high levels, or are currently taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, eating a healthy diet is important for everyone.

Good fats/bad fats

Fats can be good for you and your heart, when they’re the right kind and consumed in limited amounts; but even good fat is packed with calories.

Those include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which decrease “bad” cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides.

  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
  • Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats include corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.

Saturated fats are the bad guys that may endanger your heart. They increase LDL or “bad” cholesterol more than anything else in your diet.

  • Saturated fats, found mostly in animal products, are hard at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Think butter, shortening, fat on and in meat and poultry skin. Whole milk or two-percent milk products, half-and-half and cream all have a lot of saturated fat.
  • Tropical oils—coconut, palm and palm kernel oils—also contain a lot of saturated fats. These oils are used in commercially baked crackers, cookies and non-dairy creamers.
  • Foods containing saturated fats often also contain high amounts of cholesterol, which is only found in animal products.

Trans fats are another culprit to watch out for.

  • Trans fats raise “bad” cholesterol.
  • Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils—stick margarine and some store-bought cookies and cakes, fast-food French fries, potato chips and other snacks.
  • Read your food labels before purchasing. If there are .5 grams or less of trans fats in an item, the company can claim 0 trans fats on the label, so check the ingredient list for hydrogenated oils.

Heart-Healthy Choices

1. Switch your dairy

  • Make the change from whole or two-percent milk to one-percent and then to skim, for drinking and in recipes. Or try almond milk or rice milk for a nondairy alternative.
  • Use low-fat or nonfat sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese and ice cream.

2. Choose lean cuts

  • Beef tenderloin, sirloin, eye of round, ground beef with 10 percent or less fat and pork tenderloin are good choices.
  • Other alternatives include white meat chicken or turkey.
  • Remove the skin before cooking any poultry.

3. Cook with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated Oils

  • These include olive, canola, peanut, safflower, sunflower, sesame and soybean oils.

4. Use more plant-based proteins instead of animal products

  • These include beans and peas—black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils—and tofu or soy. Try veggie burgers (soy-based or grain-based) for an alternative to beef.

5. Boost your intake of foods that are high in soluble fiber

  • This type of fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and helps remove it from your body. Good sources include oatmeal, oatmeal bread, oat bran cereal, beans and peas, apples, bananas and citrus fruits.

6. Increase whole grains in your diet

  • Choose bread with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice, whole-grain pastas and brown rice.

7. Use products containing plant sterol and stanol esters

  • These components help keep your body from absorbing cholesterol.
  • Consuming two to three grams a day decreases LDL cholesterol by 6 percent to 15 percent.
  • Food products that have added cholesterol-lowering sterols and stanols include margarines, orange juice and yogurt.

8. Eat fatty fish twice a week

  • Choose wild salmon over farm-raised to reduce possible toxin exposure.
  • Pregnant or nursing women and children should limit tuna intake to 6 ounces a week and avoid swordfish, due to concerns about methyl mercury levels.

9. Increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables you eat

  • Most women should have 1-1/2 cups of fruit and 2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables (without cheese sauce!) every day, according to new guidelines.
  • Adding more of these to your diet fills you up, adds fiber and important nutrients and helps replace foods with saturated fats.
  • For details on the new dietary recommendations, visit

10. Keep an eye on dietary cholesterol

  • Dietary cholesterol, such as is found in eggs, dairy products and some other foods, may raise cholesterol in the blood slightly, but newer studies find that consumption of dietary cholesterol is unlikely to substantially increase risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among healthy men and women. If you have other existing health conditions or risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, being overweight, smoking or having a family history of heart disease, you may need to monitor dietary cholesterol more closely.
  • Egg yolks are filled with dietary cholesterol—213 milligrams in each. If you have elevated cholesterol, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends you keep your consumption under 200 milligrams per day.
  • Egg whites are cholesterol-free, so use two for each whole egg in recipes, or use cholesterol-free egg substitute, which works well in baking and omelettes.

Heart-Healthy Tips for Eating Away from Home

Here’s how to eat out and have a terrific meal without taking in too much fat and cholesterol:


  1. Preparation counts. Order your food fresh, sautéed, grilled/broiled, or poached. If sautéed or broiled, ask for it to be cooked with olive oil or without fat. Have sauces served on the side, so you add only what you need.
  2. Divide and conquer. Resist the pitfalls of inflated portions by eating only half of what you order. Take the rest home for an easy lunch or dinner the next day. Ask if you and your dining partner can share an entrée, with each of you ordering individual salads.
  3. Balance. Have the nachos if you really want them, but order a healthy entrée. Dessert isn’t a no-no—pick fresh fruit or sorbet. Enjoy the bread or rolls, just skip the butter and drizzle on olive oil.
  4. Sip slowly. Wine may raise HDL “good” cholesterol a bit, but there’s also evidence it can boost your triglyceride levels.
  5. Fast food stops are OK. Most fast-food restaurants now offer healthier items than a bacon double cheeseburger. Depending upon which chain you visit, you may find salads (ask for nonfat or olive oil dressings), grilled chicken, yogurt, baked potatoes and fresh fruit cups.
  6. Look for a heart-healthy symbol. Some restaurants put a heart or other sign next to healthful menu items. Choose from those.

For More Heart Healthy Info visit


Lichtenstein, A.H. Dietary fat and cardiovascular risk: quantity or quality? Journal of Women’s Health. 2003 Mar.;12(2):109-14.

Mozaffarian, D., Rimm, E.B., King, I.B., Lawler, R.L., McDonald, G.B., Levy, W.C. Trans fatty acids ad systemic inflammation in heart failure. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004 Dec.;80(6):1521-5.

Thompson, G.R., Grundy, S.M. History and development of plant sterol and stanol esters for cholesterol-lowering purposes. American Journal of Cardiology. 2005 July 4;96(1 Suppl):3-9.

Associated Press. “U.S. Government Discards One-Size-Fits-All Food Pyramid.” 2005 Apr. 19.

© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at:

Heart Health: One E-mail Can Help Women with Heart Disease


(From AHA Go Red Newsletter)

Did you know that today, a woman can be charged health insurance premiums 150% higher than a man of the same age? Unfortunately, it’s true. Studies have found that women pay significantly higher premiums than men of the same age for individual health insurance policies providing identical coverage. And these higher health care costs can put coverage out of reach for women with heart disease and even for women who are taking preventative measures to reduce their risk. And in most states, those with a pre-existing medical condition as common as high blood pressure can be denied coverage altogether or charged unaffordable premiums. That’s why we’re calling on you, as a member of the Go Red for Women movement, to make your voice heard and join us in letting Congress know that the fight against our Nation’s No. 1 killer of women requires urgent action on health care reform. On September 30th, American Heart Association advocates will be on Capitol Hill to discuss the challenges they face as heart disease survivors in affording health care coverage — and they need your help to make their message impossible to ignore.

Email your Members of Congress today and let them know women with heart disease need their support in reforming the broken health care system.

Go to

Music for a Healthy Mind and Body


 From the National Women’s Health Resource Center’s e-newsletter  HealthyWomen Take 10.


 Patients having an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test must lie very still for 30 to 60 minutes, often enclosed inside the machine’s tube. Because of that, the most valuable piece of equipment in MRI testing often isn’t the multimillion-dollar scanner. It’s something that costs far less—the headphones that many centers put on patients so they can listen to their favorite type of music while undergoing the test. That music makes time seem to pass more quickly and enjoyably. It also serves an important health function by lowering stress and reducing anxiety. Music can deliver psychological and physical benefits in a wide range of medical uses and health conditions. A study released in August 2009 looked at open-heart surgery patients who listened to music on the day after their surgery. Those patients experienced increased relaxation levels as well as higher levels of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, a hormone related to feelings of bonding and comfort. Listening to or performing instrumental music, as well as singing (individually or communally in a choir), can reduce blood pressure, lessen pain and anxiety, ease stress and may help keep cognition sharp—all at low cost and without adding medication. Singing was found to have such a positive effect on the depression that often follows knee surgery that one group of Italian researchers advocated music therapy over drug intervention for such patients. Whether you play an instrument or not, you can benefit from the power of music to help heal. Sing out loud by yourself at home or in a community group, take a music player along when you go for any medical test or procedure and remember to turn on your favorite tunes when stress intensifies. Just 30 minutes of what researchers call “music intervention” is often enough to reduce anxiety and increase relaxation. Your body and spirit will feel the difference.


Nilsson U. “Soothing Music Can Increase Oxytocin Levels During Bed Rest After Open-Heart Surgery: A Randomised Control Trial.” Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2009;18(15):2153-2161.

Sutoo D, Akiyama K. “Music Improves Dopaminergic Neurotransmission: Demonstration Based on the Effect of Music on Blood Pressure Regulation.” Brain Research. 2004;1016(2):255-262.

Nilsson U. “The Anxiety- and Pain-Reducing Effects of Music Interventions: A Systematic Review.” Association of periOperative Registered Nurses Journal. 2008;87(4):780-807.

Koelsch S. “A Neuroscientific Perspective on Music Therapy.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2009;1169:374-384.

Giaquinto S, Cacciato A, Minasi S, et al. “Effects of Music-Based Therapy on Distress Following Knee Arthroplasty.” British Journal of Nursing. 2006;15(10):576-579.

Lee OK, Chung YF, Chan MF, Chan WM. “Music and Its Effects on the Physiological Responses and Anxiety Levels of Patients Receiving Mechanical Ventilation: A Pilot Study.” Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2005;14(5):609-620.

© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: