Three Heart-Healthy Makeovers
Can you really improve your heart health and reduce your risk for cardiac disease?
A Graduate Student Takes Action Against Heart Disease continued...
Women and heart disease
"We have to remember that women are not immune to heart disease by any
stretch of the imagination," says Jennifer H. Mieres, MD, a cardiologist at New
York University. "In fact, today more women than men are dying from
cardiovascular disease in the United States."
But Morgan is working hard to avoid becoming a statistic. "Vernita is a true
success story," says Mieres, who was part of Morgan's treatment team. "She used
small steps to get big gains. Losing weight, reducing her cholesterol, making
lifestyle changes -- these factors are critical to Vernita's avoiding following
in the path of her relatives who have had heart disease and stroke."
A Cardiac Nurse Nurtures Her Own Heart Health
Carolyn Welsh knows heart disease. In fact, she lives heart disease day in
and day out as a cardiac nurse supervisor at St. Vincent Heart Center of
Indiana in Indianapolis. Treating thousands of people who have been affected by
heart disease over four decades, it never occurred to her that she herself was
"This all happened when I was 55," says Welsh, now 63. "I was right on
target with my blood pressure and cholesterol, and my weight was 163 pounds,
but I'm 5 feet 6 inches, and I felt comfortable there."
Estrogen and heart disease
Welsh had three things working against her, though: her age, stress, and a hysterectomy (which often
includes removal of estrogen-producing ovaries) she'd had almost 12 years
prior, meaning the protective effects of natural estrogen were long gone.
Estrogen, which binds to receptors in the blood vessels of the heart and as a
result helps them stay elastic, may play a part in keeping the cardiovascular
system healthy. Its binding action also releases nitric oxide, which helps
maintain smooth muscle relaxation in blood vessels, promotes cell growth and
repair, and prevents clot formation.
"After about 10 years, the loss of estrogen can accelerate the process of
cardiovascular disease and put a woman at higher risk," says cardiologist
Having gone through the hysterectomy more than 10 years ago, Welsh was at
the tipping point. What pushed her over the edge was some tragic news: While
working one evening at the hospital, she learned that her son's unborn child
had died during the eighth month of pregnancy, and she was totally