Heart disease is currently the number one killer of women in the United States according to the American Heart Association (AHA), causing almost 500,000 deaths each year - that is, nearly twice as many as all forms of cancer combined. Despite these statistics, just 13 percent of women see heart disease as a health threat.
"Unfortunately, many women are simply not aware of their risk for heart disease," said Dr Suzanne Steinbaum, cardiologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "The good news is that simple changes such as watching what you eat and exercising are two powerful steps in helping to reduce the risk of heart disease."
In February 2004 the AHA published guidelines to preventing heart disease in women in the journal Circulation, recommending that they increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids and take folic acid supplements.
Plant sterols are also known to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when consumed in sufficient quantities (0.8 grams per day) as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Each 8-fluid-ounce serving of Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise contains one gram of plant sterols. The health claims associated with the drink were substantiated in a 2003 clinical study conducted at the University of California Davis Medical Center, the results of which were published in the March 2004 issue of the AHA publication Arteriocclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
Participants with normal to borderline high total cholesterol drank two 8-fluid-ounce servings of the juice with meals every day for eight weeks, at the end of which the LDL cholesterol levels of both men and women were "significantly lowered".
This study formed part of the body of evidence submitted to the FDA in support of the product's cholesterol-lowering claim.
The AHA is holding the second annual National Wear Red Day for Women on 4 February, when landmarks all over the US, including the Seattle Space Needle and Macy's, will be lit up in red. Many companies will allow employees who make a small donation to AHA to wear jeans and red to work.