WASHINGTON — The American Heart Assn. released new guidelines for preventing and treating heart disease in women Wednesday and said most women still did not realize heart disease was more likely to kill them than anything else.
The new guidelines, available on the Internet at www. americanheart.org, stress lifestyle as the first line of attack -- stopping smoking, losing weight, exercising every day and eating a healthy diet. But they also call for aggressive use of drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure in high-risk women.
Although surveys show women consider cancer to be their No. 1 health risk, cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of women globally, the Heart Assn said. It kills nearly 500,000 U.S. women each year.
In 1997 the Heart Assn. found that 30% of women listed heart disease as the leading cause of death among women. But the latest survey of more than 1,000 women found that 46% now know the risk.
"However, when asked what they consider their own greatest health risk, only 13% of respondents cited heart disease," said Dr. Lori Mosca of Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, who headed the guidelines committee.
The new recommendations incorporated more than 7,000 separate studies and divided women into high-, medium- and low-risk groups.
A high-risk woman, for instance, already has heart disease and has had a heart attack or stroke, or has diabetes. A moderate-risk woman may have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and a woman at low risk may be at a healthy weight with healthy blood pressure and cholesterol readings.
The recommendations call for using statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs in high-risk women even if their cholesterol was at normal levels.
The experts said a woman should work toward a blood chemistry reading of 50-100-150 -- a high-density lipoprotein reading of 50, a low-density lipoprotein reading at or below 100 and triglycerides below 150.