Most of the time we think of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease as more of a man’s disease, but that isn’t so. Cardiovascular disease includes arrhythmias, heart attacks, high blood pressure, vascular dementia, congenital heart disease and stroke. The most common cardiovascular disease is coronary artery disease or the narrowing or blocking of the arteries, leading to heart attack, which affects both men and women.
One of the two types of heart disease that affect women more than men are coronary microvascular disease or disease of the smaller arteries. The other is, believe it or not, “broken heart syndrome”, which is caused by extreme emotional distress.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. right now and frankly most of us don’t really give it any thought, unless it has already affected us or a woman we love. But the facts are that as we get older the chances are that one in three of us will develop heart disease, including having a heart attack.
Why does this happen? A few things that contribute to heart disease are preventable, such as knowing your risk. Do you have a family history of heart disease? If so, get a checkup and assess your personal risks.
Quit smoking if you do, for all the obvious reasons. Did you know that when you stop smoking, you cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50% after one year?
Start moving. Even 30 minutes of walking per day can lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Don’t have the time, you say? Schedule your walks (either outside or at a gym) just like you would any other appointment. Treat yourself as you would a friend and don’t cancel.
Change your diet to include more plant-based meals and less animal protein. Prep with high quality oils (no trans oil, please) and no frying! If you are in a quandary about how to overhaul your diet, please download my Mediterranean diet today. It includes the meal plan, recipes, shopping lists – everything. If you enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, this is for you.
Or try one of the many high-quality prepared food services out there, like Home Chef, SunBasket, Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. I have tried all of these and many of my clients who don’t like to cook, or don’t have the time to prep their food use one of these services to insure they are eating healthier.
Some of the other risks that cause heart problems for women have to do with being menopausal. The lack of estrogen is believed to be a factor in an increased risk for heart disease in women, who prior to menopause had a lower risk than men. There are some conflicting studies about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and many women were taken off it in the late nineties when it was deemed risky to continue HRT, according to the largest randomized controlled trial, which included a combination of estrogen and progestin.
Today, it is widely believed that estrogen alone does not increase the risk of heart disease and may help lower your risk. However, it is always good to seek your doctor’s expert advice and assessment of your individual profile, before moving forward with HRT, to treat menopausal symptoms.
As you can see, coronary artery disease, as is the case with most life-style diseases, develop over time and the best medicine is prevention. Start today to make changes in your lifestyle to reduce your chances of a heart attack or other debilitating disease.