A simple, inexpensive blood test can warn women about the risk of future heart attacks.
The C-reactive protein test checks inflammation levels in the body. A high C-rp test result often indicates serious inflammation in the arteries around the heart, which, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, signals heart disease.
Heart disease is just as common in women as in men. Nearly 460,000 women die of cardiovascular disease every year, according to the most recent data from the American Heart Association.
Women may have less extreme symptoms of heart disease than men, so they may be more likely to ignore warning signs such as an ache in the jaw, pain in one arm or feeling more out of breath than usual, said "GMA" medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard.
"The most important thing is for women to listen to their guts, and to make sure their doctor takes their complaints seriously," she said.
Because February is National Women's Heart Health month, Savard has five tips for lowering your C-rp and your heart attack risk.
Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet -- rich in fish, nuts, grains and fruits and vegetables -- can dramatically lower your C-rp. And some good news: a small amount of dark chocolate every week can also lower your C-rp.
Foods to eat: salmon, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, raw almonds, walnuts, chick peas, olive oil, dark chocolate.
Hormones and Medication
If you're taking birth control and have a high C-rp level, you should probably stop taking it, Savard said. It's very clear that the hormones in birth control play a big part in raising the C-rp levels in your body.
For women who have already gone through menopause, oral hormones can lead to the same problem. So those women should consider switching to a hormone patch, which doesn't have the same effect.
On the flip side, there are several medications that help prevent heart disease and lower your C-rp levels, including statins, ACE-inhibitors and beta blockers.
Chronic gum disease leads to inflammation and increases heart risk. So simply flossing after meals and bedtime and good dental care can reduce your risk of heart attack.
Ginger and turmeric have been used as anti-inflammatory agents in Chinese and Indian medicine for thousands of years. Animal studies have shown these spices have strong anti-inflammatory properties, but more research needs to be done to see if the effects are the same in people.
It's hard not to feel anxious these days, but one way to reduce stress is to get seven to eight hours of sleep every day and include 30-minute naps when you can. Yoga and deep breathing can lower heart risk. So can laughing, and that's free!