Heart of the Matter: Women's Risk of Heart Disease
According to the Center for Disease Control, each year, 500,000 Americans die of heart disease, and approximately half of them are women. For the majority of women who die suddenly, they have no prior symptoms. From this we know that it is important to recognize risks that women have and encourage changes to reduce those risks. These risks start to increase at the age 55 for women, usually coinciding with the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
The three major risk factors of heart disease in women include smoking, a high LDL (the bad cholesterol), and high blood pressure. Diabetes is another major risk for heart disease, so management of the blood sugar is key to lowering risks. This is because higher blood sugars are associated with attracting cholesterol within the vessels causing blockages. Other modifiable risks include: sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, excess weight, stress and intake of more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day.
Getting your blood pressure checked, a physical exam, and fasting cholesterol test are important in identifying your unique risks of heart disease, having a heart attack or even a stroke. During your appointment you can discuss your personal health, your family health, and lifestyle risks.
Lastly, the American Heart Association recommends a lifestyle that promotes heart health. A diet low in trans fats, saturated fats, and salt is important. Replacing these with whole grains, fruits and vegetables are a great goal for the healthy diet. Movement is also very important in reducing the risks of heart disease. For adults, physical exercise (such as walking) 150 minutes a week, and two sessions of weight training of resistance training a week not only reduces the risks for heart disease, but it is also beneficial in preventing osteoporosis. Women should limit their alcohol intake to one drink a day, while men should limit it to two. The benefits of stopping all smoking is also key in reducing the risk of heart disease and sudden death.
Heart disease is responsible for one in four deaths of females. Know your risks. Know your numbers. Take the steps toward a healthier lifestyle.