The American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Medical Women’s Association, the American College of Nurse Practitioners, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society have together issued new guidelines for preventing heart disease in women. The guidelines will be printed this Friday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
One issue that the groups reached consensus on was that, when changes in lifestyle fail to lower a woman’s cholesterol, doctors should next try using cholesterol-lowering drugs. Currently, hormone replacement therapy is frequently prescribed when changes in diet and exercise fail.
The recent guidelines also urge doctors to counsel women on the benefits of eating a low-fat diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, and giving up cigarettes, noting that risk factors due to poor diet, overweight, lack of exercise, and smoking are actually rising in women.
Given that diabetes increases women’s risk of heart disease by three to seven times, compared to a two to three times greater risk in men, the guidelines urged doctors to aggressively treat heart disease symptoms and risk factors in diabetic women.
The recent guidelines also assert that current cholesterol guidelines should be lowered for women. Authors asserted that women’s triglyceride levels should not exceed 150 milligrams per deciliter, and that women’s levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol should be at least 45 milligrams per deciliter.