DALLAS, TEXAS. The American Heart Association has just issued new guidelines for the prevention of heart disease and stroke. The guidelines emphasize that both conditions are almost entirely preventable by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. The Nurses Health Study, for example, clearly shows that women can reduce their risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease by an astounding 84 per cent by maintaining a desirable body weight, exercising regularly, not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and consuming only a moderate amount of alcohol. Smoking is the major risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and stroke. High blood pressure (above 140/90 mm Hg) and a high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [greater than 160 mg/dL (4.1 mmol/L)] are other very significant risk factors as is a fasting glucose level above 110 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L). The guidelines stress the importance of a healthy diet, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day, and maintaining a body mass index at or below 25 kg/m2. A daily aspirin is recommended for people with specific risk factors for coronary heart disease only. Doses of 75-160 mg/day are as effective as higher doses. Patients with atrial fibrillation should take 325 mg/day of aspirin for stroke prevention if under the age of 65 years while those over 65 years should be anticoagulated with warfarin.
Pearson, Thomas A., et al. AHA guidelines for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke: 2002 update. Circulation, Vol. 106, July 16, 2002, pp. 388-91