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HEALTH REPORT — Heart Disease in Women - 2004-02-17

Broadcast: February 18, 2004

This is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Studies show that many American women believe breast cancer is the biggest threat to their health. But more than ten times as many women die of cardiovascular diseases. These are diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Heart attacks and strokes are the leading killer of both men and women.

Breast cancer kills about forty-thousand women in the United States each year. But heart attacks and strokes kill about five-hundred-thousand. In fact, fifteen percent more women than men die of cardiovascular disease. Yet many people still think of it mainly affecting men.

The American Heart Association has new guidelines to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in women. It published the guidelines in Circulation: the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For example, the guidelines urge women not to use hormone replacement therapy as a way to protect the heart. Hormone replacement is for women past the time when they can have children. But recent studies have shown that it may do more harm than good.

The guidelines also urge women to know their risk of heart attack or heart disease. They suggest that a woman talk to her doctor about this beginning as young as the age of twenty.

The heart association Web site has information that can help people measure their level of risk. The address is americanheart-dot-o-r-g.

Users answer some questions. They enter their age and whether or not they smoke. They need to know the level of cholesterol in their blood. And they need to know their blood pressure.

A total score below ten percent is considered low risk. This means that a woman has less than a ten percent chance of a heart attack in the next ten years. The next level of ten to twenty percent is considered intermediate risk. More than twenty percent is high risk.

The heart association says those at high risk should ask their doctor for medicine that lowers cholesterol. Women are also urged to ask for treatment if their blood pressure is one-hundred-forty over ninety or higher.

The guidelines say women at intermediate or high risk should consider taking an aspirin each day. Aspirin may reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Again, the Web site is Americanheart is all one word.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Phoebe Zimmermann.