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The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution

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The Heart Truth

Women and Heart Health

February 1, 2013 was National Wear Red Day. We have typically thought of heart disease as a problem that mostly affected men. The American Heart Association and the US Department of Health and Human Services want you to know more about your heart disease risks. Each year, more American women die of heart disease than do men. This is true for all racial and ethnic groups.

Heart disease kills more American women each year than all forms of cancer, combined.

One out of every four American women will die of heart disease.

Women's heart attack symptoms may be different than men's.

Do you know your risk factors?

High blood pressure
High cholesterol or triglycerides
Low good cholesterol (HDL)
Overweight or obesity
A family history of early heart disease
Age 55 and older for women

2006 infograph comparing the leading causes of death among women. The chart shows heart disease as the #1 killer of women.

How can women protect themselves?

Know your numbers. Know about your cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, and what is a healthy weight for you.

Blood tests

Get your blood tested for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and glucose. Your doctor may have additional tests that he or she also wants to take. You should be fasting (no food or beverages other than water) for 12 - 14 hours prior to your test. Your targets are:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 200. Your physician may have a lower target for you, based on your individual risk factors.
  • LDL: less than 100 is best, less than 130 is acceptable. Again, your physician may have a lower target for you, especially if you have diabetes or have already had a heart attack.
  • HDL: greater than 60 is optimal. Less than 50 for women (40 for men) raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Triglycerides: less than 100 is optimal, and less than 150 is acceptable.
  • Glucose: less than 100 is desirable. If you have diabetes, your doctor may have a different target for you.

Blood pressure

Your blood pressure should be less than 140/90. (The top number is the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure). Your doctor may have a different target for you, depending on other risk factors.


You would like to be at a weight, that has you at a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the healthy range. For more information, see healthy weight If you are in the BMI categorized as overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing heart disease.
Also, measure your waist circumference. For women, a waist measurement higher than 35" (88 cm) or 40" (102 cm) for men, indicates that you are at higher risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

What you can do to reduce your risk factors

  • Increase your physical activity to at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, most days.
  • Follow a healthy diet, such as the DASH diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat and non-fat dairy, with appropriate amounts of nuts/beans, whole grains, heart healthy fats, and protein rich foods, limiting salt, saturated and trans fats, refined or processed foods, and added sugars. Heart healthy fats include omega-3 and monounsaturated fats.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women (or 2 drinks per day for men).
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage your diabetes, if diabetic.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Take your prescribed medications.

What is the DASH Diet?

The DASH diet eating plan is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy. It also includes grains, especially whole grains; lean meats, fish and poultry; heart healthy fats, nuts and beans. The DASH plan is controlled for salt and sodium, has low amounts of unhealthy saturated and trans fats, moderates intake of refined and processed foods, and is low in added sugars. The DASH eating plan lowers cholesterol and makes it easy to lose weight. It is a healthy way of eating, designed to be flexible enough to meet the lifestyle and food preferences of most people.

The DASH Diet Action Plan is the user-friendly guide to the DASH diet. The book was written to make DASH easy-to-follow, since without support, many people find it challenging. And the book makes it easy to lose weight, and has realistic ways to add more exercise. Although the book was not intended to be an aggressive weight loss book, people wrote to say that they have surprised themselves by finding it easy to lose weight following the plan!

Learn more about the DASH diet and the book below.

Learn more about the book, or view the table of contents.

Learn more about the DASH diet.

Read about DASH diet in the News.

Read about new DASH diet research.

The Heart Truth logo is a trademark of HHS.

® National Wear Red Day is a registered trademark of HHS and AHA.



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Site last updated February 26, 2018