Women and Heart Disease: Your Risk May Be Higher Than You Think
Of all possible diseases, women probably fear breast cancer the most – yet breast cancer claims the life of 1 women in 25, while cardiovascular disease kills 1 out of 2. Each year, 370,000 women die of heart disease, which makes it the number one killer of American women. Are you doing enough to protect yourself? The experts say most women are not.
According to the American Heart Association, there is a wide gap between what is known to prevent heart disease in women and what is actually being done. Since cardiovascular problems tend to affect women about 10 years after the problems strike men, many people believe the misperception that cardiovascular disease is not a real threat for women.
Alliance Women’s Health encourages women to become informed about heart disease, because recent studies indicate that women are not receiving proper cardiac care. For example, women are less likely to undergo tests to view arteries that may be blocked. Also, fewer women than men are given exercise stress tests. Women must educate themselves about the risk factors for heart disease. One of the best ways to monitor heart problems is to listen to one’s body and take care of it. If a woman experiences chest pain, she needs to see a doctor immediately.
C. W., the medical director for heart services and a cardiovascular surgeon, says, “An underserved community has been created for women concerning heart disease, because women often tend to ignore the warning signs of cardiovascular problems and focus on diseases such as breast cancer and AIDS.”
According to Alliance Women’s Health, the best protection against heart disease is prevention. The following ways help to eliminate coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors:
- Quit smoking. The leading preventable cause of CHD in women is smoking. More than 50% of women suffer from heart attacks, which are attributable to tobacco. Risk starts declining within months of stopping smoking.
- Maintain a heart-healthy diet. There is compelling evidence that diets low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber are associated with a reduced risk of CHD.
- Become physically active. Exercise can cut CHD risk in half. Even moderate-intensity activities such as brisk walking are associated with substantial risk reduction.
- Monitor your cholesterol. Serum cholesterol levels over 240 mg/dL are considered risky, but reduced levels of the good HDL cholesterol may be an even more important risk factor for deaths from CHD in women. The “good” HDL cholesterol needs to be raised and that is possible through exercise.
- Check your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for CHD. When it stays above normal levels over a period of time, blood pressure is considered high.
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