MDCH Recognizes May 14-20 As National Women's Health Week

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

May 18, 2006

In recognition of National Women’s Health Week, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is asking women to focus on heart health and disease prevention.

“Heart disease has been the number one killer of women nationally almost every year since 1900,” said Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan Surgeon General. “In addition to heart disease, stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability. More women than men die from stroke with 3,299 Michigan women having died in 2004.”

Nearly one in every four Michigan adults is estimated to have high blood pressure, one of the leading risk factors for both heart disease and stroke. It also contributes to diabetes, kidney failure, eye disease, and other vascular diseases.

Also called hypertension, blood pressure is shown as a fraction of two numbers, such as 120/80. The top number is called the “systolic” and the bottom number the “diastolic” pressure. A blood pressure reading greater than 140/90 is considered high and needs medical attention. Despite a wide range of effective medications available to treat high blood pressure, the number of people who have their blood pressure under control is disappointing.

Many people think of high blood pressure as a condition caused by stress, but other major risk factors include: obesity, smoking, little or no exercise, too much salt in the diet, race, and a family history of hypertension. For women, birth control pills, pregnancy and menopause can all increase the likelihood of developing hypertension. Those with a parent, sibling or child with high blood pressure, especially at an early age, are at increased risk. Studies also show that African Americans are more susceptible to high blood pressure.

One out of four women with high blood pressure is unaware that they have high blood pressure, often because there are no noticeable symptoms. Those at risk should have their blood pressure checked at every doctor’s office visit or at least every two years, and more often if recommended.

Eating a low-salt, low saturated fat diet, getting 30-60 minutes of physical activity on most or all days and limiting alcohol consumption can all help prevent and control high blood pressure. Foods rich in potassium and magnesium, or a supplement with these vitamins, may also prevent high blood pressure.

For more information on heart disease and stroke in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cvh. To learn about Women’s Health Week go to www.4women.gov.