Healthy Heart Advice for Women


"Goldilocks" Exercise and SleepWoman Running

Exercise and good rest are healthy habits, right?  What is the right amount for optimal cardiovascular health? For exercise, brisk walking is good enough - 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week does the trick!  Women who exercise moderately and regularly experience fewer than half as many heart attacks as those who don’t. And, research in healthy women shows that the optimal sleep duration is seven hours.  Less than seven hours is associated with increased heart risk.  Now here’s the interesting part:  you can get too much of a “good thing.”  Exercise and sleep research also suggests that long-duration intense exercise actually reduces some of the benefits seen with moderate exercise. And, excessive sleep duration is also associated with higher heart risk. So, good sleep, and daily exercise - not too little, not too much - shoot for “just right!”

Are you Inflammatory?

Everyone should “know your numbers.” Blood pressure (below 140/90 mm Hg) and cholesterol (lower is better) are among the most important to know. But do you know your inflammatory number?  Here’s the idea:  All of us have a certain level of an “inflammatory” response in our bodies at all times - it is there to be ready to fight infections, but also can be slightly stimulated by chronic inflammation in our bodies:  that chronic joint problem; a chronic illness (like rheumatoid arthritis); bad teeth and gums and so on. Doctors can measure your level of inflammation using a test known as C-reactive protein. It is a simple blood test that can be added to your cholesterol measurement test, and it indicates the level of inflammation in your body. Research in healthy women shows that optimal heart health is achieved when cholesterol and inflammation are BOTH at low levels. Interestingly, inflammation alone creates heart risk no matter how well your cholesterol is controlled. Thankfully, common cholesterol medications known as statins not only reduce cholesterol, but also reduce inflammation. So, the next time you have your cholesterol checked, ask your doctor if they can also check your CRP- you’ll learn more about your heart risk!

“Take an Aspirin and Call Me in the Morning?” - Not Quite

Do you take aspirin?  If you do, but don’t have a history of heart disease or stroke, you should think about re-evaluating your treatment with your doctor. Recent advice on the use of aspirin in healthy women suggests that MOST women without prior heart disease should probably not be taking a “preventive” dose of aspirin. The reason is that the benefits, while real, are generally small and offset by the risks of aspirin - mainly bleeding. The decision can be a complicated one, based upon your individual heart risk.  So, certainly ask your provider if preventive aspirin is for you. And, if you are on aspirin, it is worth a double check to make sure this treatment remains a good choice!

Should You Take a Cholesterol Pill?

To make this decision, it depends on your risk for heart disease and stroke. A detailed calculator is available to measure your heart risk. It depends on several factors such as your blood pressure, your cholesterol levels, inflammation, family history, age and smoking behavior. Recent guidelines say that if your risk is at least 7.5 percent, then there is a 7.5 percent chance of developing heart disease or stroke in the next 10 years, and a statin would be indicated. Statins are among our most effective and safest medications for heart disease prevention. And, here’s the good news: research across the last two decades show us that women who take a statin when indicated benefit at least as much, if not more, as men! 

So, live well first, but when medications to treat your cholesterol are indicated, medications can be very helpful! You can check out your heart risk at

By Dr. Allen Taylor
Chief, Cardiology Division
Medstar Georgetown University Hospital
Medstar Washington Hospital Center
Medstar Heart and Vascular Institute

Dr. Allen J. Taylor, Chief of Cardiology, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Marianne Worley
Director of Media Relations
Office: 703-558-1287
Pager: 202-405-2824
[email protected]

Understanding Heart Attack and Stroke Risk in Children with Type 1 Diabetes

WASHINGTON – It’s a little known fact: heart attack is the leading cause of death for people younger than 40 who have type 1 diabetes. Diabetes is a risk factor for both heart attacks and strokes; more than a third of those with type 1 diabetes die before age 55 from some form of cardiovascular disease.* To understand more about risk factors in young patients, Georgetown University is looking for both children with type 1 diabetes and healthy children, ages 12 to 18, to help with an important new study.

“Many young patients with type 1 diabetes have high cholesterol, a contributing risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but only a few of them are treated with cholesterol-lowering medications,” says Evgenia Gourgari, MD, an assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “Pediatric endocrinologists are often hesitant to treat these young patients in the absence of information about the long-term safety and effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering drugs.”

Gougari, who treats patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and her colleagues have launched a study to learn more about children with type 1diabetes who might be at risk of later having a stroke or heart attack.

“What we seek to understand are the differences in cholesterol, blood pressure, potential plaque build-up in the arteries and other factors in those with type 1 diabetes in comparison with healthy youngsters,” says Gougari, principal investigator of the study. “Eventually, we’ll want to know if treatment can make a difference and if it matters to start treatment early so we can prevent future heart disease.”

Healthy children and those with type 1 diabetes between the ages of 12 and 18 are invited to volunteer in a study involving a single blood draw (to measure lipid/cholesterol levels), a urine test and an ultrasound scan of the carotid artery (in the neck). All the tests are conducted in one visit at no charge to participants. A modest compensation is offered to all participants.

This study is funded in part by a Clinical and Translational Science Award (UL1TR000101) to Georgetown and Howard universities, and by generous community support through the Georgetown University Medical Center Partners In Research program. Gourgari reports having no personal financial interests related to the study.

For more information about this for children with type 1 diabetes, please call Stephanie Gubb at 202-444-1210.

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital with 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis—caring for the whole person—MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.

MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital—Knowledge and Compassion Focused on You.


*Report of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute–National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Working Group on Cardiovascular Complications of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus



Media Contact

Marianne Worley
[email protected]