Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on August 30, 2012


Nanette Wenger, MD Chief of Cardiology Emory-Grady Memorial Hospital

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Video Transcript

Narrator: Geri Simmons has a regular Monday, Wednesday, and Friday routine at the Emory University Heartwise program…. 32 laps around the gym, breaking a sweat on the stationary bike and tackling the weight machines. Pretty impressive workout and she's lost 30 pounds. But that's not the first thing she'll tell you:

: Geri: I'm 69 and I am so proud…laughs… Narrator: Well you should be! And why are you so proud? Because you are still active? Geri: No because I've lived 5 years longer than my mother did….

Narrator: Geri knows her age and family history put her at risk. Yet heart disease is the leading killer of ALL women, young and old. It claims more lives then the next six causes of death combined. So why don't more women see the danger signs.

Nanette Wenger, MD: So many women were told by their treating physicians don't worry about heart disease when you're young—your own hormones will protect you ... or take menopausal hormone therapy and that will keep you young forever. And it was based on zero studies. Zero.

Narrator: Dr. Nanette Wenger should know. She participated in the ground breaking studies that changed the national guidelines for treatment of women with heart disease.

Nanette Wenger, MD: When women were sick we were treating them with therapies that were tested on middle aged men.

Narrator: Today's emphasis is on a partnership between a woman and her doctor. To do that, a woman needs to define her personal risk factors:

Nanette Wenger, MD: Women should know their numbers. They should know what their blood pressure should be. Ideal blood pressure at all ages is about 120/80. They should know their blood fats. Women should know three numbers: 100, 50, 150.

Narrator: 100 is for LDL ... the bad cholesterol that clogs your arteries. Ideally, it should far below 100. 50 is the HDL or good cholesterol. You want the number to be 50 or higher. And 150 is for triglycerides, another dangerous blood fat. It should be lower than 150. Geri Simmons sees the results of her healthier life style every day. Exercise has helped lower her cholesterol and blood pressure, and she watches her salt and fat intake. She finds she has little patience with friends who complain that change is hard.

Geri Simmons: They tell me, well, I can't eat food without salt and I can't do this, the food doesn't taste good, and I said well you know you've got an alternative And it's not a good one.

Narrator: Which is?

Geri Simmons: To die.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte