Women and Heart Health

What are your thoughts with regards to taking a baby aspirin? If recommended how often and for what reason?

The answer to this depends on your individual situation. Everyone who has had a heart attack or stroke should take low-dose (baby) Aspirin for life because it can reduce the risk of deadly recurrence by up to 25 per cent. But in regards to women and heart health, those who have no history of cardiovascular disease should not routinely take Aspirin as a preventive tool because there is no evidence the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks.

Many doctors routinely tell their patients to start taking a baby Aspirin daily at age 50 to avoid heart problems. It is also a common recommendation for post-menopausal women and diabetics. However, according to the most recent guidelines by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society there is no good evidence that this is beneficial. And there is clear evidence that regular use of aspirin can cause serious stomach problems such as bleeding.

Also, if you do take Aspirin, avoid taking other analgesics or anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, because they interfere with Aspirin’s ability to prevent clotting.

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Will taking fish oil supplements co-Q10 or antioxidants provide reversible effects on heart issues (i.e. if started later in life)?

It is not possible to predict the individual effects of taking these supplements in your particular case because there are many factors to consider, such as current state of health, use of medications, lifestyle, previous medical history and so on.

Supplements can play an important supportive role in preventing and treating health problems and in optimizing health.  Fish oil has been well studied and found to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also lower triglycerides, cholesterol, clotting and inflammation – all risk factors for heart disease. Coenzyme Q10 is an important antioxidant involved in energy production in our cells. It may be depleted as we age and in those taking certain medication such as statin drugs.  Supplementing with Q10 may also offer modest benefits for lowering blood pressure.

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What test do I need to request for cardiac assessment (family history of heart disease)?

There are many tests that can be done to check heart function. At a bare minimum you should have your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart rate checked. If you have symptoms of heart disease such as chest pain, pain on exertion or palpitations or if you have existing risk factors (in addition to family history other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes) then your doctor may order any one of a number of tests such as an exercise stress test, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, holter monitor and CT scan to name a few.

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