Are you at risk?
Several risk factors contribute to heart disease and stroke. Some, like gender, age and family history, are beyond your control. The good news is that you can modify many risk factors with lifestyle changes and/or medication. Which means the way you live can significantly impact how long you live.
High Blood Pressure
Women with high blood pressure face a greater risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure. Although high blood pressure is more common among men, post-menopausal women also have a high risk of developing the condition.
In many cases, you can control high blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol to one drink a day, exercising regularly, following a heart-healthy diet, and reducing stress. Some women, however, may need medications to lower their blood pressure.
If you smoke, you’re two to six times more likely than a nonsmoker to have a heart attack. Consider these facts:
- Studies show that the more cigarettes you smoke regularly, the greater your risk of heart disease.
- There’s a direct link between smoking and hardening of the arteries.
- Smokers who take birth control pills are at the greatest risk for a heart attack.
- Constant exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risk of heart disease.
- Smoking also boosts the risk of stroke.
It’s time to quit! You can do it with the help of our smoking cessation program.
Type 2 Diabetes
Because women with type 2 diabetes have higher levels of insulin in their blood, they’re more prone to blood clots. This may explain why 75 percent of people with type 2 die of heart attacks or strokes. The risk of death from heart disease is three times greater for women with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes doubles the risk of a second heart attack in women (but not in men).
Although there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, you can control it by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Based on findings from a long-term risk study of 3,000 people, researchers believe that regular exercise might improve your ability to dissolve blood clots and possibly lower your risk of heart disease.
Obesity not only doubles your risk of heart disease and stroke, but also increases your chances of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which contribute to heart disease. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about sensible ways to lose weight and eat healthfully.
High Triglyceride/Cholesterol Levels
Women can cut their heart disease risk by controlling their triglyceride levels (levels of the most common type of fat in our bodies). In addition, about 25 percent of American women have high cholesterol levels (240 mg/dL or above), and more than half of US women over age 55 need to lower their blood cholesterol. This waxy substance can cause hardening of the arteries, the major cause of heart attacks.
While excess weight tends to increase your blood cholesterol level, heredity and diet also play large parts. High cholesterol can run in families, and a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol can cause high blood cholesterol. The good news is that you can lower your blood cholesterol levels and slow, stop, or even reverse cholesterol buildup by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Lack of Physical Exercise
Regular exercise can reduce stress, help lower cholesterol and help you lose weight–all of which can contribute to a healthier heart. Experts recommend that you exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes a day, every day. But exercise doesn’t mean running on a treadmill. Work with your doctor to find something you like so that you’ll stick to it.
As we age, we become more and more susceptible to heart disease. In fact, four out of five people who die of a heart attack are over 65. And while men suffer attacks in large numbers overall, a woman’s risk increases later in life, especially after menopause.
Have your parents had heart disease? Then be especially aware of the warning signs because you have a greater chance of developing cardiac problems yourself.