Women's Heart Advisor April 2013 Issue

Ask The Doctors: April 2013 Women's Edition

Q. I’ve smoked cigarettes for over ten years, and have worked hard to cut down to just one or two a day. Is this enough to reduce my risk of a heart attack?

A. Even light-to-moderate cigarette smoking is associated with a significant increase in the risk of sudden cardiac death in women as well as risk of heart disease, stroke or cancer. The risk of sudden cardiac death rose eight percent for each five years of smoking. However, smoking cessation reduces your risk greatly even on day one.

Did you know that when you stop smoking, within…

• 20 minutes your blood pressure, pulse rate and the temperature of your hands and feet return to normal.

• Eight hours the remaining nicotine in your bloodstream will have to fallen to a 93.25 percent reduction.

• 12 hours your blood oxygen level will have increased to normal and carbon monoxide levels have dropped to normal.

• 48 hours damaged nerve endings have started to regrow and your sense of smell and taste begin to return to normal.

• 72 hours your entire body will test 100 percent nicotine-free and over 90 percent of all nicotine metabolism (the chemicals it breaks down into) will now have passed from your body via your urine.

• Two weeks to three months your heart attack risk has started to drop and your lung function is beginning to improve.

• One year your excess risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke have dropped to less than half that of a smoker.

• Five years, if a female ex-smoker, your risk of developing diabetes is now that of a non-smoker.

• Five to 15 years your risk of stroke has declined to that of a non-smoker.
 
Q. My doctor has told me to exercise more to help manage my heart disease, especially now that I’m going through menopause. How much should I exercise each week, and is simply walking each day enough to improve my health?

A. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Based on recent findings, moving 6,000 or more steps a day -- no matter how -- adds up to a healthier life for midlife women. That level of physical activity decreases the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a diabetes precursor and a risk for cardiovascular disease).  It may be intimidating to start exercising if you’ve never been active, but it’s important to remember that any exercise helps. That means you can start 10 minutes a day, two times a week and then build up to 15 minutes a day, two times a week, and gradually build your level of exercise to 20 minutes a day, three times a week. Also, remember to do little things everyday to keep active, such as taking the stairs, parking further away or going for a walk during your lunch hour. Overall, remember every little bit counts.

Q. I’ve recently read that drinking tea can reduce my risk of stroke. Is this true, and if so, what kind of tea is most beneficial and how much of it should I drink each day?

A. There has been a lot of news about the benefits of drinking tea for good health. The top six types of tea and their reported benefits include:

• Black tea is the most common variety and contains the most caffeine (about 40 milligrams per cup). Black tea has high concentrations of the antioxidant compounds known as theaflavins and thearubigins, which have been linked to lower levels of cholesterol.

• Green tea contains about 25 milligrams of caffeine per cup. It’s full of antioxidants called catechins, and one study found that each daily cup of green tea consumed may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 10 percent.

• White tea has a milder flavor than any other variety and a lot less caffeine —about 15 milligrams per cup. It offers the same potential cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits as other teas, and some research suggests that it may offer benefits to people with diabetes.

• Flavored tea includes aromatic extras, such as cinnamon, orange peel and lavender, which are paired with black, green or white tea leaves. Flavored teas have the same levels of antioxidants and the same health benefits as unflavored ones, and those flavored with “superfruits,” such as blueberries, may contain even more antioxidants.