September 7, 2023

Getting Serious About Heart Health

Read My Lips: it’s time for women to stay on top of their heart health and get regular cholesterol screenings.

Why? Because more than 94 million adults, or nearly 40% of the U.S. population in the United States, have high cholesterol.

Having high cholesterol is a problem. It raises the risk of having a heart disease or a stroke, and it raises risk of a heart attack—which women die from more often than men. At the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), we are committed to reversing the tide on this alarming statistic by educating women on how to protect their heart.

Thankfully, there is a way to determine if your cholesterol is an issue: a lipid panel.


What is a lipid panel?

A lipid panel is a blood test that measures the amount of fat molecules (lipids) in your blood. Having too many lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) in your blood can lead to buildup in your blood vessels and arteries, which can cause damage and increase your risk of heart disease.

Lipid panel results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, and the method used for your lipid test. So, it is important to be tested regularly and discuss your results with your health care provider. Providers will use these results to assess your heart health and to determine if your cholesterol is at a healthy level.


How do you know if you are at risk of having high cholesterol?

We’ve outlined the most common risk factors right here:

The most common risk factors for high cholesterol include having certain health conditions (like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and familial hypercholesterolemia), having a family history of high cholesterol, smoking cigarettes, age (everyone’s risk goes up with age), lack of physical activity, and diet (diets high in saturated fats and trans fats may contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease).  

For women, beyond high cholesterol, there are certain medical conditions and risk factors that can raise the risk of coronary heart disease, including gestational diabetes, autoimmune disease, preterm birth, PCOS, preeclampsia, and hypertension of pregnancy.


What does this mean for you? Where should you go from here?

The first step individuals should take in supporting their heart health is to talk to their doctor about reading your lip(id)s! Most individuals should get a panel every four to six years, but should work with their clinicians to create a personalized plan based on risk factors like a history of heart disease or diabetes, lipid level, and type of treatment. Copy over or screenshot the discussion guide below and bring it to your next appointment to start the conversation:

Discussion Guide

Getting Started

  1. What are my risk factors for cardiovascular disease?
  2. Do I have certain medical conditions that would increase my cardiovascular risk?
  3. When was the last time I had my cholesterol checked?
  4. Should I get a lipid panel test now?
    1. If yes: How do I prepare for my lipid panel test?
    2. If no: When should I get one?

Understanding the Results

  1. What do my lipid panel test results mean?
  2. How might my individual risk factors affecting my results?

Managing Heart Health

  1. What next steps should I take to manage my cholesterol? (If applicable)
  2. When should I get my next lipid panel test?


What can you do for your heart health in the meantime?

Even without a lipid panel test, cholesterol is manageable. Keep your cholesterol at a healthy level by:

Don’t hesitate to talk to your health care provider about your overall heart health and wellness. You have the tools to take control of your heart health. Read My Lips: you can do this!