QMG Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Hope Owens lists heart disease risk factors, shares prevention tips, and explains the all-important lipid panel — or cholesterol test — an easy test administered in routine care by your primary care provider to determine if your cholesterol is normal or falls into a borderline, intermediate, or high-risk category.

Losing even one woman to cardiovascular disease is one too many. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. One in five women will die from the disease. That’s a startling statistic, but, on a personal level, it’s more than that. Behind that number are our mothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and more.

We spoke to QMG Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Hope Owens, NP-C, CVNP-BC, about what women of all ages can do to prevent the disease. With education and healthy lifestyle changes, heart disease can be prevented, but she said many women are unaware of their risks.

“Cardiovascular disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined, and yet only 44 percent of women recognize that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat,” she explained. “Among females 20 years and older, nearly 45 percent are living with some form of cardiovascular disease.”

What are the risk factors of heart disease in women? Owens said there are a number of them that include:

  • Being overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy eating
  • Smoking tobacco/alcoholism
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease

For all women, especially those who have these risk factors, there are preventive measures you can take. Owens recommends the following:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats. Avoid saturated or trans fats, added sugars, and high amounts of salt).
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid or limit alcohol (one drink a day for women)
  • Routine check-ups with a primary care provider for blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checks
  • Take medications as directed by your healthcare provider for hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia

Keeping a routine of regular visits with your primary care provider (PCP) will help you keep on top of any health concerns. One important screening that your PCP will typically administer is a lipid panel.

A cholesterol test or lipid panel measures the fats (lipids) in the blood. These fats are important for cell health but can be harmful if you have too many (cholesterol and triglycerides) in your bloodstream,” Owens said. “If you have too many, this problem can lead to a build-up in your blood vessels and arteries, which can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular problems like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. This is an easy blood test that can be monitored and interpreted by your primary care provider to determine if your cholesterol is normal or falls into a borderline, intermediate, or high-risk category.”

For more about our QMG Cardiology team, visit quincymedgroup.com/heart. If you need a primary care provider, visit https://quincymedgroup.com/providers/accepting-patients/.