Heart Disease in Women
For a long time, people thought heart disease affected men more often than women. But that’s not because women weren’t having heart problems, theirs just weren’t showing up in symptoms as obvious as the men’s were.
In fact, heart disease is more common in women than in men and causes 40% of all female deaths.
Part of the problem is that the symptoms women experience from heart disease don’t seem serious enough to complain about or head to the doctor over. By the time they do decide a visit to a medical professional is in order, their condition has worsened and treatment is more of an uphill battle.
When it comes to heart health, you have to move fast (and not just in terms of cardio).
The Risks of Heart Disease
Heart disease is something all adult women have to worry about, but the risks increase with age. A woman’s risk especially increases after going through menopause.
It should be no surprise to learn that smoking also adds to a woman’s risk of heart disease. The good news is that, even if you’ve been smoking for many years, quitting now can make a big difference in your likelihood of suffering from cardiovascular disease. After one year of quitting, the risks associated with smoking decrease by 80%. If nothing’s been able to convince you to quit yet, why not celebrate American Heart Month this year by giving up those cigarettes?
Stress and depression are also important factors in how likely a woman is to experience heart disease. Many women take on an unreasonable amount of stress when it comes to juggling family and life responsibilities. One study found that women had slower recovery times after a heart attack than men and demonstrated a higher level of mental stress, making the recovery harder.
Unsurprisingly, women who struggle with high cholesterol and blood pressure are also more at risk. If you know these are a problem for you, you should be extra vigilant in tracking them and paying attention to any early warning signs of worsening heart health.
How to Take Control of Your Heart Health
To start, know the symptoms. Heart attacks and heart disease tend to look a little different in women than in men, so you may be surprised by how little you know what to look for.
Next, follow all those familiar instructions you’ve heard a million times before on how to be healthier:
Quit smoking (for all the reasons already discussed).
Be active. 30-60 minutes of exercise a day is ideal (and emphasize some of those exercises labeled “cardio,” they’re named that for a reason). If you suspect regular cardio isn’t something you’ll keep up with, at least try to take a walk every day. Maybe try out some wearable tech to give yourself a goal in steps walked each day.
Pay attention. If something feels off, don’t hesitate to head to the doctor. Catching the problem early will make you much more likely to get past it.
I know this is all stuff you’ve heard before and it falls into that very large life category of “things that are easier said than done,” but you don’t want to die any sooner than you have to. Once you’ve reached retirement, you should have fewer excuses than ever before to get a little exercise into your day and try some new (healthier) recipes.
Won’t it feel nice if you can brag to the doctor on your next visit about all your newfound healthy habits?