Many consider cardiac disease a man’s disease, but it is the #1 cause of death in American women and in women worldwide. It claims more female lives than all forms of cancer combined and is 6-10 times more deadly than breast cancer. The incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women is 40% between ages 40-60, 78% between ages 60-80, and 92% beyond age 80. CVD is very much a concern for both men and women regardless of race.
How To Prevent Cardiac Disease In Women
Regardless of discipline, healthcare providers have a lot to offer when it comes to helping patients prevent cardiac disease. We can screen all women to know who is at the greatest risk for heart disease. Traditional risk factors women and men share are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and a family history of heart disease. However, women have additional risk factors associated with their reproductive history. For instance, a woman who developed preeclampsia and/or gestational diabetes during pregnancy puts them at greater risk of heart disease. Also, women with a history of endometriosis, PMS, pre-term birth, hysterectomy (especially if < age 35), and who are postmenopausal are more likely to develop heart disease.
The Most Important Heart-Healthy Measure
Encourage women to exercise! The goal is at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity each week (30 minutes daily, 5 days a week) and include muscle-strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week. Also, educate on the importance of adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle:
- Eat healthy foods
- Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Fish, poultry, beans, nuts, vegetable oils, and low-fat dairy products
- Limit food that is high in saturated fat and sodium
- Limit sugar and sweeteners
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Choosing heart-healthy foods and getting regular exercise helps
- Reduce stress; this may cause high blood pressure and increases heart disease risks
- Get enough sleep
- Aim for 7-8 hours nightly
- Sleep deprivation increases heart disease
- Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol
- Quit smoking
Collectively reinforcing this information can make a positive difference for many women.