What women need to know about heart disease
By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters
Many women are unaware that heart disease is a bigger health threat to them than breast cancer. Several factors increase women's risk for heart disease. Some of the factors can be avoided, but some can't. And the more risks a woman has, the greater the chance she may develop the disease.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), these risk factors can't be changed:
- Increasing age. The chance of developing heart disease increases as women get older. As women approach menopause, their risk for heart disease and stroke begins to rise and continues to do so with age.
- Heredity. Women are more likely to develop heart disease or stroke if their close blood relatives have had them.
These are risk factors for heart disease that can be changed:
- Smoking. Women who smoke have a higher death risk from heart disease. What's more, smokers who have a heart attack are more likely to die suddenly than nonsmokers.
- High blood pressure. Some women with hypertension (140/90 mmHg) can bring their blood pressure down to a normal level by losing weight, quitting smoking and exercising. Other women may need to take medication. Women who have a family history of high blood pressure -- especially African American women -- are at high risk.
- High cholesterol and triglycerides. Women should be sure to get regular cholesterol screenings and maintain a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
- Lack of exercise. Studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. The Physical Guidelines for Americans state 2 hours and 30 minutes, or 150 minutes, regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, tennis, dancing, and house and yard work each week, can reduce the risk for heart disease.
- Excess pounds and/or a poor diet. You should consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich foods and cereals low in saturated and trans fats. The risk for heart disease is particularly high in women who have excess abdominal fat.
- Diabetes. About 68 percent of people who have diabetes die from some form of heart disease or stroke. Compared with women of the same age without diabetes, diabetic women have an increased risk for heart attack.
- Heavy drinking. Women shouldn't have more than one alcoholic drink per day.
- Stress. Adopt healthy ways of dealing with stress. For example, take breaks from work and home duties, read books, take daily walks and avoid negative people in your life.
Ask your doctor about the risks specific to women and to you so that you can take lifesaving preventive measures.