A Woman’s Heart
When asked what the greatest health threat facing women is today, most women will respond cancer. However, more women will die of heart disease than all cancers combined. Heart disease claims 6 times the number of deaths than breast cancer. Most women are not fully aware of their risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the #1 killer of American women, claiming more than 500,000 lives each year. 1 out of 3 women will eventually die of heart disease. More women die of heart disease in the U.S. than men each year, and mortality after a heart attack is higher in women than men. The symptoms of heart disease in women may be fewer and different than heart disease symptoms in men. Women may complain of abdominal or back pain or complain of nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, dizziness or shortness of breath. In many women the first sign of heart disease may be fatal.
The risk factors for heart disease in women are the same as those in men:
- Smoking -A smoker is 2-6X more likely to suffer a heart attack than a non smoker.
- Physical Inactivity – A sedentary lifestyle can double the risk of HD and increase the risk of hypertension and diabetes.
- High Blood Pressure-even when mild can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- High Cholesterol-the higher the cholesterol, the higher the risk of heart attack.
- Diabetes-is associated with a 3 fold to 7 fold increase risk of heart disease.
- Obesity-Excess weight contributes not only to CVD but also HTN, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Increasing Age-Heart disease in women increases after menopause and age 50. Hormone replacement therapy Does Not prevent heart disease.
There are several things women can do to decrease their risk of heart disease.
- Don’t smoke
- Do maintain a healthy weight
- Do eat a high fiber, low fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Consume two servings of fish per week.
- Do exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week
- Do manage high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol
- Don’t let stress overwhelm you
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Remember, heart disease takes years to develop. Your best protection is prevention.