Updated guidelines advise focusing on women's lifetime heart risk
Update gives definitive answers on HRT, aspirin, supplements
DALLAS, Feb. 20, 2007 –
Healthcare professionals should focus on women’s lifetime heart disease risk, not just short-term risk, according to
updated American Heart Association guidelines.
The 2007 Guidelines for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease in Women – published today in a special women’s health
issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association – also include new directions for using
aspirin, hormone therapy and vitamin and mineral supplements in heart disease and stroke prevention in women.
“The updated guidelines emphasize the lifetime risk of women, not just the more short-term focus of the 2004 guidelines,”
said Lori Mosca, M.D., Ph.D., director of preventive cardiology at New York–Presbyterian
Hospital and chair of the American Heart Association expert panel that wrote the guidelines. “We took a long-term
view of heart disease prevention because the lifetime risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is nearly one in three
for women. This underscores the importance of healthy lifestyles in women of all ages to reduce the long-term risk of
heart and blood vessel diseases.”
The guidelines include a new paradigm for risk assessment based on risk factors and family history, as well as the Framingham risk score. (First published in 1998, the Framingham
risk score estimates the risk of developing coronary heart disease within 10 years.)
The new guidelines include expanded recommendations on lifestyle factors such as physical activity, nutrition and smoking
cessation, as well as more in-depth recommendations on drug treatments for blood pressure and cholesterol control.
Furthermore, guidelines on hormone and aspirin therapy and antioxidant and folic acid supplements are revised based on
recently published data.
“Since the last guidelines were developed, more definitive clinical trials became available to suggest that healthcare
providers should consider aspirin in women to prevent stroke,” Mosca said. “In addition, providers should
not use menopausal therapies such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such
as raloxifene or tamoxifene to prevent heart disease because they have been shown to be ineffective in protecting the heart
and may increase the risk of stroke.”
A recent American Heart Association survey showed that women are confused about methods to prevent heart disease including
the role of aspirin, hormones and dietary supplements.
“The new guidelines reinforce that unregulated dietary supplements are not a method proven to prevent heart disease.
For example, recent studies have shown that folic acid is ineffective to protect the heart despite widespread use by patients
and physicians hoping for a heart benefit,” Mosca said. “These recent findings emphasize the importance
of using well-conducted clinical trial data to develop national recommendations to help patients and their doctors use best
practices to prevent heart disease – practices based on data rather than myth or wishful thinking.”
CVD is the largest single cause of mortality among women, accounting for 38 percent of all deaths among females. The
public health impact of CVD in women is not solely related to mortality, as advances in science and medicine allow many women
to survive heart disease. For example, in the United States
42.1 million (36.6 percent) women live with CVD and the population at risk is even larger.
In fact, “nearly all women are at risk for CVD, underscoring the importance of a heart-healthy lifestyle in everyone,”
the authors wrote. “Some women are at significant risk of future heart attack or stroke because they already have
CVD and/or multiple risk factors. These women are candidates for more aggressive preventive therapy and we define them
as high risk.”
Physicians can easily identify high-risk women, but tools to determine other levels of risk are limited, Mosca said. The
authors have aligned their recommendations with treatments proven to work and give strong advice for what not to do, as well.
“Therefore, we have more aggressive recommendations for high-risk women, and strongly emphasize lifestyle strategies
to reduce risk in all women,” she said. “Medicine is still an art but these guidelines are meant to guide
healthcare professionals on the best science available.”
Highlights of the changes include:
- Recommended lifestyle changes to help manage blood pressure include weight control, increased physical activity, alcohol
moderation, sodium restriction, and an emphasis on eating fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
- Besides advising women to quit smoking, the 2007 guidelines recommend counseling, nicotine replacement or other forms
of smoking cessation therapy.
- Physical activity recommendations for women who need to lose weight or sustain weight loss have been added – minimum
of 60–-90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (e.g., brisk walking) on most, and preferably all, days of the week.
- The guidelines now encourage all women to reduce saturated fats intake to less than 7 percent of calories if possible.
- Specific guidance on omega-3 fatty acid intake and supplementation recommends eating oily fish at least twice a week,
and consider taking a capsule supplement of 850–1000 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic
acid) in women with heart disease, two to four grams for women with high triglycerides.
- Hormone replacement therapy and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are not recommended to prevent heart disease
- Antioxidant supplements (such as vitamin E, C and beta-carotene) should not be used for primary or secondary prevention
- Folic acid should not be used to prevent CVD – a change from the 2004 guidelines that did recommend it be considered
for use in certain high-risk women.
- Routine low dose aspirin therapy may be considered in women age 65 or older regardless of CVD risk status, if benefits
are likely to outweigh other risks. (Previous guidelines did not recommend aspirin in lower risk or healthy women.)
- The upper dosage of aspirin for high-risk women increases to 325 mg per day rather than 162 mg. This brings
the women’s guidelines up to date with other recently published guidelines.
Consider reducing LDL cholesterol to less than 70 mg/dL in very high-risk women with heart disease (which
may require a combination of cholesterol-lowering drugs).
This 2007 update provides the most current clinical recommendations for preventing CVD in women 20 and older and are based
on a systematic search of the highest quality science interpreted by experts in the fields of cardiology, epidemiology, family
medicine, gynecology, internal medicine, neurology, nursing, public health, statistics and surgery.
The authors note that these guidelines cover the primary and secondary prevention of chronic atherosclerotic vascular diseases.
Recommendations for managing vascular disease before or after cardiac procedures or post-hospital and valvular heart
disease are covered in other American Heart Association guidelines.
Co-authors of the 2007 guidelines are Carole L. Banka, Ph.D.; Emelia J. Benjamin, M.D.; Kathy Berra, M.S.N., N.P.; Cheryl
Bushnell, M.D.; Rowena J. Dolor, M.D., M.H.S.; Theodore G. Ganiats, M.D.; Antoinette S. Gomes, M.D.; Heather L. Gornik, M.D.,
M.H.S.; Clarissa Gracia, M.D., M.S.C.E.; Martha Gulati, M.D., M.S.; Constance K. Haan, M.D.; Debra R. Judelson, M.D.; Nora
Keenan, Ph.D.; Ellie Kelepouris, M.D.; Erin D. Michos, M.D.; L. Kristin Newby, M.D., M.H.S.; Suzanne Oparil, M.D.; Pamela
Ouyang, M.D.; Mehmet Oz, M.D.; Diana Petitti, M.D., M.P.H.; Vivian W. Pinn, M.D.; Rita Redberg, M.D., M.Sc.; Rosalyn Scott,
M.D.; Katherine Sherif, M.D.; Sidney Smith Jr, M.D.; George Sopko, M.D., M.P.H.; Robin H. Steinhorn, M.D.; Neil J. Stone,
M.D.; Kathryn Taubert, Ph.D.; Barbara A. Todd, M.S.N., C.R.N.P.; Elaine Urbina, M.D. and Nanette Wenger, M.D. This writing
group includes representatives of the following participating organizations and major co-sponsors: The American Heart Association;
American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American College of Cardiology
Foundation; Society of Thoracic Surgeons; American Medical Women’s Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Ad Hoc Writing Group Member, Office of Research on Women’s Health; Association of Black Cardiologists; World Heart Federation;
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and American College of Nurse Practitioners; with representation from the American
College of Physicians. (Representation does not imply endorsement by the American
College of Physicians.)
In addition, this report has been endorsed by: American Academy of Physician Assistants; American Association for Clinical
Chemistry; American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation; American College of Emergency Physicians;
American Diabetes Association; American Geriatrics Society; American Society for Preventive Cardiology; American Society of
Echocardiography; American Society of Nuclear Cardiology; Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses;
Global Alliance for Women’s Health; The Mended Hearts, Inc; National Black Nurses Association; National Black Women’s
Health Imperative; National Women’s Health Resource Center; North American Menopause Society; The Partnership for Gender-Specific
Medicine at Columbia University; Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association; Society for Vascular Medicine and Biology;
Society for Women’s Health Research; Society of Geriatric Cardiology; Women in Thoracic Surgery; and WomenHeart: the
National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
Editors Note: In 2004, the American Heart Association launched its multi-tiered cause marketing Go Red For Women
movement to raise women’s awareness of their risk for heart disease and to help them take action to reduce their risk.
For more information on heart disease and stroke or the Go Red For Women movement, call 1-888-MY-HEART or visit goredforwomen.org. The American Heart Association urges Congress to make the No. 1 killer of women a national priority by passing
the HEART for Women Act this year. The HEART for Women Act is bipartisan federal legislation that would improve the
prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in women. For more information, please visit www.heartforwomen.org.
NR07 – 1118 (Circ/Women’s Guidelines 2007/Mosca)