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The Doctors on heart disease
The Doctors on heart disease: The Doctors discuss ways to reduce the risk of heart disease.
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5 tried-and-true ways

• Exercise regularly.
• Eat right.
• Lose weight.
• Don’t smoke.
• Keep blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at healthy levels.

More

Fact: heart disease kills more women than men each year. It’s more deadly than all forms of cancers combined, and the latest counts show it affects 43 million American women.

But this is a fact, too: You do not have to become one of those statistics. Science has shown time and time again that you can help protect the health of your heart by exercising regularly, eating right, losing weight, not smoking and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at healthy levels.

And every day, researchers study more ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are three recent findings:

Avoid yo-yo dieting. Shedding extra pounds is great for your heart’s health, but gaining back even a few might raise the risk for cardiovascular disease in older women, a small study suggests. Scientists monitored a group of postmenopausal obese women through a five-month weight-loss program, and then for the next 12 months. Though the women lost an average of 25 pounds during the diet period, and they improved their blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar, those who regained 4 or more pounds after a year saw their cardiovascular risk factors return to pre-diet levels — and in some cases get even worse. That means maintaining weight loss is just as important as losing weight, researchers say. Your best bet: Skip the fads and the get-thin-quick diets. Instead, approach losing weight as a commitment to permanent lifestyle changes.

Know the signs of heart attack. Chest pain is a telltale symptom, yet women experiencing it are more likely than men to wait more than a day to seek medical care, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Interviews with nearly 3,000 heart attack patients also found that 60% thought their symptoms were not heart-related. Women commonly blamed indigestion, stress or anxiety as the cause. Part of the problem may be that many think the signs of heart attack are obvious — such as feeling as if an elephant is sitting on your chest. In reality, symptoms can be subtle, and even confusing, but if you don’t get help right away, consequences can be deadly. If you experience any of the following, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help: uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, or even your back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort); breaking out in a cold sweat; and feeling nauseated or lightheaded.

Reconsider hormone therapy. Early research out of Denmark suggests that women who start hormone replacement therapy in early stages of menopause, and take it for an average of 10 years, may have less risk of heart attack, heart failure or premature death, with no increased risk of cancer or stroke — concerns among menopausal women and their doctors when considering HRT. Experts agree the potential benefits are not a reason to start HRT; more research is needed. But if you are using it, these preliminary findings may offer peace of mind. Ask your doctor if HRT is a safe option for you.

The Doctors is an award-winning daytime TV show. See local listings for air times in your area.

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