Women and Heart Disease: Prevention May Be the Cure

More than 435,000 women have heart attacks each year. Prevention could make all the difference.

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If you knew you could have stopped that balsamic vinegar from splattering on your favorite white sweater, would you have done something to prevent it from happening? And if you knew you were going to drive into a pothole, causing your tire to go flat, would you have taken a different route? I'm sure you also wish your child had moved the toy he tripped over so that he wouldn't have hurt his knee.

Bonnie Taub-Dix
Bonnie Taub-Dix
Yes, all of the above situations could have been prevented if you would have anticipated these problems in the first place, but unless you're clairvoyant, it's not very easy to prevent something you can't predict. When it comes to your body, right now, as you read this story, there are accidents inside you waiting to happen: whether it's potential damage from high blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels, this is the time to take charge of your health. Many of us are also fighting against our family histories.

[See Best Heart-Healthy Diets.]

For too many years, I've seen women in my practice overcome with worry and concern over their husband's health. They know every little detail about his medical history, laboratory values, and current medications. Yet when it comes to themselves … their chief complaint is, "I hate the way I look." It's not until I scratch below the surface or consult with their physicians that I discover they have a soaring cholesterol level, or a family history of diabetes, or that they're going through menopause and have a mother and grandmother suffering from osteoporosis.

These women don't realize that they too can stand among their sisters, who together make up one scary statistic: More than 435,000 women have heart attacks each year. In fact, more women die of heart disease than of all types of cancer combined. And more than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease, and many don't even know it.

[See Al Roker's Gastric Bypass and Weight Loss.]

To underscore the need for corporations, media, doctors, researchers, friends, and neighbors to speak up and promote a healthier lifestyle for women, I had the pleasure of attending the Woman's Day Red Dress Awards at Lincoln Center in New York City. As honoree and Today show contributor Joy Bauer mentioned, this was probably the closest we'll ever get to the Academy Awards. My connection to this event, however, was close to my own heart. My dad, mom, brother, and sister all had or have heart disease. That means that this silent killer could be at my doorstep … but that doesn't mean I'm answering the door! You may not be able to pick your parents, but you can pick what goes on your plate.

[See The Truth About Women's Heart Health.]

Fighting heart disease in women is not just about putting on a red dress or eating heart-healthy foods during February, which is American Heart Month. It's about making some room on your own to-do list and trying to take small steps to promote a healthy lifestyle. As a mom of three and a diehard foodie, my kitchen is the heart of my home. Let's all fight together to keep our hearts safe and strong.

For more information about how you can help or get help, visit www.heart.org or www.womensheart.org, or follow some of my faves on twitter, @American_Heart, @GoRedForWomen, and @WomansDay.

[See 5 Red Foods to Eat for Your Heart.]

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.