The American Heart Association (AHA) recently published guidelines regarding prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. The full text of the guidelines can be found here. Dr. Randi Protter from Capital Health’s Center for Women’s Health recently wrote about some of their dietary recommendations.
The guidelines also have recommendations regarding physical activity, cigarette smoking, as well as management of blood pressure and cholesterol. In general, most of the recommendations are not different than those for men.
The guidelines specifically recommend AGAINST four interventions that previously were thought to be potentially beneficial:
1 – Daily aspirin in healthy women younger than 65. Aspirin is commonly used to prevent heart attacks or strokes in people who have already had a heart attack or stroke (so-called secondary prevention). In young women who do not have such history or evidence of plaque buildup in their artery and are not otherwise at very high cardiac risk, aspirin is not useful and may in fact lead to stomach upset, ulcers and bleeding and should not be used. This is a recommendation that is specific to women.
2 – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not be used to prevent heart disease. Obviously this is another recommendation that is specific to women. There may be other legitimate reasons for women to be taking hormone replacement therapy, such as to treat symptoms of menopause. However, HRT should not be used solely to prevent heart disease.
3 – Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene should not be used to prevent heart disease.
4 – Folic acid supplements should not be used to prevent heart disease. Folic acid does have a very important role in preventing neural tube defects in unborn children and should be taken in women of childbearing age for this purpose. However, it is useless in prevention of heart disease.