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Heart Health For Women

Heart Health For WomenIn their new book, Tufts nutrition experts Miriam Nelson and Alice Lichtenstein discuss the risks for heart disease in women and what can be done to combat them.

Boston [05.27.05] Though heart disease is the top killer of women in the country, misconceptions persist about how widely it affects women. In their new book Strong Women, Strong Hearts,Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy scientists Miriam Nelson and Alice Lichtenstein explain not only how to help avoid heart disease but also note how the warning signs differ greatly for women than for men.

"Women are still being turned away at emergency rooms," Nelson saidon NBC's The Today Show on May 13. "Their symptoms are more subtle than men's."

Many of the symptoms that indicate heart disease in women are common ailments that can be misdiagnosed if not thoroughly evaluated.

"Many women will have about two months of fatigue. They won't feel quite as up to snuff as they usually are," Nelson explained. "It's a marked change. And they'll feel kind of a heaviness, they'll have some indigestion.”

This is one of many reasons Nelson and Lichtenstein embarked on this project.

"My collaborator Alice Lichtenstein is one of the finest scientists in the world around women and heart disease and nutrition," Nelson said of her Tufts colleague and co-author. "What we wanted to do is get this latest scientific information out there and put it into a program that would be easy for women to follow."

While compiling the book, the authors were struck by what women had to say about their experience with heart disease.

"It was amazing as we put this book together to talk to women who've had heart disease and to hear their stories," Nelson told Wisconsin Public Radio. "I was amazed at how many of them were misdiagnosed, were told that women in their 50s don't get heart disease."

Nelson has previously authored six books, including Strong Women Stay Young; Strong Women, Strong Bones; and Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis.

According to Nelson, women surpassed men in fatalities from heart disease due to a mix of reasons.

"Women are living longer, but we're also more overweight, and we're more sedentary," Nelson said on the program. "So those twofactors really go into that mix."

Nelson saidthat women need to take their health care into their own hands, both in the doctor's office and at home.

"You need to advocate for yourself," she said on the program. "If you see your doctor, you need to talk to them and tell them about these symptoms. And then you need to really demand that you get some of the same diagnostic procedures as men."

Nelson also advises women to carefully monitor their nutrition and closely investigate which types of diets to pursue.

"A very low-fat diet may actually be harmful because when you have a lot of carbohydrates in your diet you can actually increase triglyceride levels," Nelson explained. "But what the most important thing to realize about diet is we're talking about the whole pattern. Not one single food makes a big difference. It's whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy food."

Also important is exercise, with Nelson saying that a 12-minute mile is a good measurement to go by for maintaining good heart health.

"The really good news here, the silver lining, is that heart disease is largely preventable if you eat good food, and you are physically fit," Nelson explained on Today. "So those two factors alone have a major impact in reducing your risk."

Ultimately, Nelson explained, the key to good health includes a positive outlook.

"Being positive, being optimistic is very, very important," shesaid.



















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