Preventive care can do a great deal to reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack. We recommend that all women age 35 and over get screened for risk factors regularly. The earlier you identify and begin treating your risk factors, the more you can reduce your chance of developing heart disease and heart attack. Although you cannot change risk factors such as family history of heart disease and age (for women, your risk increases after age 55), you can make changes to control the following: Blood Pressure - Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If it is high, talk to your doctor about medication to treat it. High blood pressure is more prevalent in women, with a marked increase in incidence with age. High Cholesterol - Know your LDL ("bad") and HDL ("good") cholesterol numbers, as well as your total cholesterol. Research has shown that for women, good cholesterol is the primary determinant of coronary risk. Increased risk for women begins with HDL levels of less than 50. However cholesterol goals are different depending on your age and risk factors, so talk to a doctor to figure our your ideal numbers. If lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet changes do not help improve your numbers, medication can help. Patients at Lahey also have access to our Lipid Clinic, where patients receive thorough evaluation and expert advice regarding their cholesterol and related issues. Obesity - Understand your goal weight and BMI (body mass index). Excess body fat, especially around the waist, can make you more prone to heart disease and stroke. Talk to your doctor about starting a diet and exercise program if necessary. Smoking - If you smoke, you're 2 to 4 times more likely than a nonsmoker to develop heart disease. Smokers who are also taking birth control pills and who are over age 35 are at a much greater risk. Lahey offers smoking cessation programs and resources to help smokers quit. Diabetes - If you have diabetes, you run a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Controlling your blood sugar and managing your weight are key to lowering your risk. Lahey Clinic is a world-renowned center of excellence in the treatment of diabetes and heart disease due to our ongoing research in that area.
Lahey offers the most advanced diagnostic tests for heart disease including nuclear imaging testing, cardiac catheterization/angiogram, blood tests, and the most frequently used exam, stress echocardiography, which uses ultrasound combined with exercise. Your doctor can provide you with the specifics of each exam, as well as help you determine which test or tests would be most appropriate for you. More information on testing is also available in our women's cardiovascular health library.