Risk Factor Modification

When you come to the Ministrelli Women's Heart Center, you are evaluated for all of the standard risk factors for heart disease, as well as some unusual risk factors. You are counseled by the professional staff at the Women's Heart Center on how to modify your personal risk factors.

However, there are two factors you cannot change: your age and your family history. 

  • Age - as you get older, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease becomes the leading cause of death for women over age 55. Regardless of age, once you reach menopause your risk for developing heart disease increases two to three times.
  • Family history - can be an independent risk factor for heart disease in women. It is strongest as a risk factor if first-degree relatives like your father, mother or siblings were diagnosed before age 65. The risk for women is greater if your relative was female. Women with a strong family history of heart disease should be evaluated yearly for early signs of heart disease. If heart disease runs in your family, it may be due to an inherited abnormality in cholesterol production. It also may be related to environmental factors you developed from your family such as diet, smoking or lack of exercise.

Below is a brief description of the risk factors and how you can modify each one to improve your heart profile.

  • High Blood Pressure - Get regular exercise. Eat a diet low in sodium, low in fat and high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans).
  • Lipids (Cholesterol and Triglycerides) - Eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber. Get regular physical activity.
  • Diabetes - Get regular exercise. Regular aerobic exercise may prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. Eat at least three meals a day consisting of low fat and high fiber.
  • Stress - Incorporate stress management techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation or visualization into your daily routine.
  • Physical Inactivity - If you are inactive, make a commitment to begin some physical activity everyday to establish a routine. Find activities you enjoy and have variety in your program. Monitor your heart rate and symptoms.
  • Overweight - Try to exercise daily for at least 30 minutes or more. You can divide it up if necessary. Include aerobic and resistance exercises. Eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full.
  • C-Reactive Protein - This is a measure of inflammation in your arteries. Modifying your other risk factors will lower it.
  • Homocysteine - Eat whole grains and beans daily. Take a multivitamin that includes 400 mcg folic acid, 2.4 mcg B-12 and 1.7 mg B-6

Your risk also increases if you:

  • Do not see your doctor regularly.
  • Do not care for yourself (medical needs) as well as you care for others.
  • Continue to think of heart disease as a "man's disease."

If you would like to see if you have any potential risk factors for heart disease, the Women's Heart Center offers a free risk assessment to any woman in the community. A questionnaire can be picked up at the center or you may call and request that one be mailed to you.