Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women. When it comes to risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity, both sexes are at equal risk for developing heart disease. But, there are some risk factors where women are actually at greater risk than men.
• Smoking: Women who smoke are more likely to develop heart disease than men.
• Diabetes: If you are a woman with diabetes, you have a greater heart disease risk than a man with diabetes.
• Stress and Depression: As a woman, your risk for heart issues, if you are depressed, are greater than a man’s risk.
• Pregnancy: Your long-term risk of heart disease may increase if you had high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy.
• Menopause: As your estrogen levels decrease after menopause, you are naturally at a higher risk for a certain kind of heart disease that affects your small blood vessels.
Checklist to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease and Heart Attack
We are always making check lists – shopping, errands, kids’ activities. We should also make a list, (and check off) strategies to lower our risk of heart disease. As women we are sometimes better at taking care of others than we are of ourselves. But our own heart health should be a priority.
First, if you smoke, stop. The U.S. Surgeon General has said, “Smoking cessation [stopping smoking] represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” Need help quitting? We offer resources, call 985.449.4686.
Start and stick with an exercise plan. Regular exercise can not only help you manage your weight, but can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five times per week. The key to sticking with a regular exercise program is to find an activity that you enjoy doing.
Another item on your heart health checklist should be to see your doctor. Regular visits and routine screenings are essential for heart (and overall) health.
Manage your weight. According to the American Heart Association, even if you have no other related health conditions, obesity itself increases risk of heart disease.
Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
Just as there are differences in some risk factors for cardiovascular disease for women than for men, some signs of a possible heart attack are also different.
For women, signs and symptoms of a heart attack are often more subtle. And studies show women are more likely to report chest pain as an ache or a tightening – not necessarily as the crushing pain you think of when you think “heart attack.”
It should also be noted that women are more likely to ignore, or write off, symptoms of a potential heart attack. If you have any reason to suspect you’re having a heart attack, or if you have unexplained symptoms, call 9-1-1.
For more information contact the Wellness Education Center of Thibodaux Regional at 985.493.4765.