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New Heart-Health Guidelines Issued for Women

In the past, women have used heart-health guidelines that were developed based on research on men.
In the past, women have used heart-health guidelines that were developed based on research on men.

First specific tips that are not tailored for men

The American Heart Association is out with a new set of guidelines aimed at preventing heart disease in women. Although, heart disease is thought to mainly affect men, it is actually an equal opportunity killer. These are the first heart-health tips tailored specifically for women.

Heart disease is the biggest killer of both men and women worldwide, and is projected to stay that way for decades, according to the World Health Organization.

Dr. Lori Mosca, who headed the group which wrote the guidelines, says "heart disease is largely preventable," and there are ways women can reduce their risk. "In fact, control of major risk factors has been shown to cut the rate of dying of heart disease in half in the past two decades."

The guidelines, which were first introduced a decade ago, are actually designed to help doctors counsel their patients, but this year for the first time, the revised guidelines are also being published in a more user-friendly form, written for non-physicians.

The guidelines promote reducing the risk of heart disease by stopping smoking, being physically active, and eating fruits and vegetables, among other lifestyle choices. Other guidelines deal with aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs and when those drugs are most effective.

In some cases the latest guidelines lower the threshold at which women would be considered at high risk, "because many of the current strategies and tools that we have to define high risk in women have been shown to actually underestimate the level of risk that a woman has," Mosca says.

Although the guidelines are issued by the American Heart Association, Mosca says they apply to women everywhere.

"The scientific base to develop the guidelines has been drawn from across the world, so we're quite confident that the guidelines themselves apply to women regardless of the country they live in."

That said, the experts who developed the guidelines acknowledge they may need to be adapted to reflect regional or local resources and lifestyles.