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Go Red for Women: February 4, 2011

It’s in stop signs and emergency lights. The color red warns us of impending danger and today, the color red serves as a health warning. “I think that women in general are often unaware of the fact that heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women,” warns Elizabeth Cosmai-Cintron, a cardiologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

Today is “Go Red for Women” Day. Cardiovascular disease has often been dismissed as an older man’s problem, when in fact; the disease has claimed the lives of more than half a million women each year. “There have been some speculation that issues such as metabolic syndrome places them at a higher risk and particularly, triglyceride levels tend to affect women more so,” explains Dr. Cosmai-Cintron. “There’s also some data indicating that women have smaller artery sizes which also places them at risk. And many women, due to stress levels or responsibilities at home, present later so they almost delay their care.”

While all women should be aware of their risk, there’s one group in particular that she is concerned about. “Hispanic women or Latinas, often have greater risk factors when compared to white women. And those risk factors include: diabetes, pre-hypertension, or even hypertension. They are also more likely to be physically inactive. In fact, 60% of Latinas tend to be physically inactive.”

She says women should talk about heart disease with their physician and find ways to reduce their risk. When they go see their physician, they should ask: how are they doing? How is their blood pressure looking? Year to year. How is their cholesterol profile?”

Knowing your numbers is key to preventing heart disease. While certain genetic conditions are uncontrollable, there are things you can do to decrease your risk: exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and keeping stress levels at minimum can all be beneficial.