Policy highlights from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition

Nutrition and Heart Health Expert Endorses New Heart Disease Guidelines for Women

Over 500,000 women die from heart disease a year, by far the leading cause of death of women in the United States. In contrast, 40,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Nevertheless, when women are asked what they perceive as their most serious health risk they overwhelmingly say breast cancer. In order to raise awareness about heart disease in women and provide specific guidelines on how to reduce that risk, the American Heart Association has released new advice to physicians -- "Evidence-Based Guidelines for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Women." Experts say this is an important step forward.

Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, professor at Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition, and vice-chair of Nutrition for the American Heart Association, feels that women need to understand that heart disease is as significant a problem for them as it is for men. "When women think health risk, they don't think heart disease, they think breast cancer. Although both are important, heart disease will affect a far greater number of women during a lifetime. In addition, there are specific things they can do to reduce their risk, and it is never too late to start."

The new guidelines categorize women into four risk groups that are based on the Framingham Global Risk score, an analysis that classifies people based on their potential to have a cardiovascular event such as stroke or heart attack in the next ten years. The four categories recognize multiple risk factors including current presence of disease, family history and lifestyle factors that include cigarette smoking, diet weight and psychosocial factors such as depression. "The higher a woman's risk, the more aggressive recommendations she and her physician may need to follow," explained Lichtenstein who also holds the Gershoff Chair in Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman Sch

Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
Tufts University

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