While many think of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as a man's disease, the truth is that one in three women die of CVD, making it the leading cause of death for American women. Shocked? The good news is there are things every woman can do to help protect themselves from a first cardiovascular event (primary prevention) or another heart attack or ischemic stroke (secondary prevention). Aspirin is one thing you can do to help control your risks.
When it comes to taking aspirin for either primary or secondary prevention, having a conversation with a health care professional is key. New guidelines around primary prevention have caused some confusion about the use of aspirin to prevent CVD events, like heart attacks and ischemic strokes. In the United States, aspirin is approved to be used by people who have known cardiovascular disease and are trying to prevent another cardiovascular event. These people may have already had a heart attack, ischemic stroke, angina, carotid artery disease or a revascularization procedure.
When it comes to understanding how you can help prevent CVD, focus on these asking questions in these five key areas with a health care professional:
1. Risk factors/Warning Signs
What are my personal risk factors for a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or ischemic stroke?
What are the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke? And are the signs different for women? (Note: Women's symptoms can be very different than men's.)
2. Screening tests
Which screening tests should I have?
How often should I have them?
What will these tests reveal?
3. Your numbers
Knowing your numbers and what they mean can help you understand what lifestyle changes and medications you might need to prevent CVD.
It's important to know which numbers to be tracking with a health care professional. These should include:
- Cholesterol (LDL, “bad" cholesterol and HDL, “good" cholesterol)
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Glucose/Sugar
- Weight/Body Mass Index (BMI)
4. Pre-existing conditions and lifestyle changes
Certain behaviors, like inactivity, stress, overweight or obesity and smoking can all contribute to CVD. Questions you can address with a health care professional include:
- If I have a pre-existing condition, what impact does it have on CVD?
- What changes to my diet and exercise should I be making?
A health care professional may prescribe or recommend medications to help control certain risk factors. Taking an aspirin regimen, as directed by a health care professional, may also be an appropriate choice. While the guidelines for taking aspirin for preventing a first heart attack or ischemic stroke (primary prevention) have changed, the guidelines for taking aspirin to help prevent another heart attack or ischemic stroke (secondary prevention) have not changed. For these people, aspirin and other medications may be life-saving preventive treatments.
Questions to ask a health care professional include:
- What medications can I take to help control my risk factors for a first event?
- Should I take aspirin to help prevent another heart attack or ischemic stroke?
Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to speak with a healthcare professional before you begin an aspirin regimen.
This resource was created with support from Bayer® Aspirin.