As the leading cause of death in the U.S., the risks for heart disease have been well established. Yet, many believe that heart disease “primarily affects older men.” In reality, heart disease affects women at startling rates and in surprising ways.
Did you know:
- Heart disease is the number one killer of women and causes 1 in 3 deaths every year.
- 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
- According to the American Heart Association in a 2012 study, 56% of women identified heart disease as the leading cause of death.
Men and women share some of the same risk factors for heart disease: smoking, high cholesterol and blood pressure, lack of exercise, type 2 diabetes, family history and obesity.
Yet, some unique risk factors only affect women:
- Pregnancy related conditions like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension,
- Birth control use with a history of smoking and
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
These unique risk factors begin when women are young and can have a life-long health impact on a woman’s health.
“We need to start talking to our younger female patients and engage them on how they can start living healthier; the earlier the better,” says Daisy F. Lazarous, MD, a cardiologist with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group.
Stress is another risk factor for heart disease shared by men and women. However, evidence shows that stress affects women differently. Several studies show that women in high-stress jobs have an increased risk of heart disease. In one study, heart disease risk increased by 40% in high-stress jobs when compared to less stressed women. Other studies have shown similar findings in men.
“Everyone processes stress differently but women may react to and experience stress differently than men,” says Dr. Lazarous. Many women have concurrent jobs- both in the home and outside that make maintaining a life/work balance difficult and stressful. Women may also face stressors at work that their male counterparts do not. Find out ways to combat stress.
Protect Your Heart
Along with a nutritious diet and regular exercise, it is important to know your risks for heart disease. Also, talk to your doctor to develop a plan to get on the path to better heart health.