Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States? Sadly, it’s true. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to protect and prevent yourself from becoming part of this alarming statistic.
According to Go Red for Women, which is the American Heart Association’s women’s initiative to increase heart health awareness, heart disease can be ruthless and can impact a wide-range of people dealing with health issues. There are some risk factors involved that you can’t do anything about, such as whether or not your family has a history of heart health issues. There are others, however, that you can control with the help of a healthcare professional and a change in your diet or lifestyle.
Risk factors that can be managed:
Non-controllable risk factors:
Each year, there are an estimated 960,000 new cases of heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, throughout the country. And of these diagnosed cases, according to CEUfast Nursing CE, half are likely to die within five years of receiving the diagnosis.
“Congestive heart failure is, in a nutshell, the end stage for all chronic disease affecting the heart, and as such is a major cause of sickness and eventual death,” wrote David Tilton (RN, BSN) on CEUfast’s Course Congestive Heart Failure: The Essence of Heart Failure.
According to Verywell Health, about a half million women die of heart disease each year, and more women than men die from cardiovascular disease – from heart attacks, heart failure and strokes. So, it’s important to know the risks involved, try to keep your chances of developing heart disease as low as possible and educate others on the topic so that they can do the same. Let’s start by learning what things you can look for in your early years.
You might be thinking, who needs to start worrying about heart disease at such an early age? However, starting in your 20’s and 30’s is a great time to talk to your doctor about what your heart disease risk factors might be and to take a look at your eating, exercise and lifestyle habits. Just like with many other healthy habits, starting at a young age makes it easier to stick with good habits. Verywell Health encourages women to be comfortable asking a doctor what they feel their risks are so they can go ahead and work on a plan together to help prevent it.
While you are still young, you should try to take advantage of the fact that you are more mobile and have more energy. By exercising regularly, you can help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure low, which in return helps protect your heart. While exercising, you should try to do a little bit of cardio mixed with resistance training, which can help reduce your risk of gaining weight and having a heart attack or a stroke.
Maintaining your cholesterol while you are young is also important. High cholesterol and other lipids can greatly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and having low HDL levels are a bigger risk factor in women than in men. To help maintain your cholesterol at a reasonable level, you can try to look for the right diet and exercise routine, as well as using supplements or medicines.
In recent studies, according to Verywell health, women that develop certain complications during pregnancy can have a higher risk of early cardiovascular disease. These complications include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or delivering low-birth-weight babies. By talking to a doctor and managing all cardiovascular risk factors, you can best prevent heart disease from happening later in life.
During this stage, it’s also important to talk about heart disease in your family. If you have a family history – a parent or sibling – that has heart disease before a certain age (55 for men and 65 for women), then your risk for encountering the disease increases.
Around this age – about 40 to 45 years old – a lot of what you need to concentrate on is continuing with your good habits and watching for increased risks of heart disease. When women reach this premenopausal age, hormones become a key factor because your estrogen levels drop, which were at one time protecting many of the things that helped keep your heart healthy.
Now is the time to break bad habits, such as smoking. Per Verywell health, smoking accounts for the vast majority of heart attacks in women under the age of 45, and can multiply the risk of heart disease even more when that individual has a family history with it. So now is the time to kick the habit to the curb and start better, healthier practices.
Speaking of healthier habits, exercising regularly as part of your normal daily routine can help fight against obesity and diabetes. More specifically, Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common these days and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by quite a bit. In fact, the risk of heart disease in women with diabetes is increased by at least six times.
Hormones, as stated previously, play a major role in affecting women’s cardiovascular health. In premenopausal years, according to Yale Medicine, estrogen protects the heart as it relaxes the arteries and promotes good cholesterol. During perimenopause (the transition into menopause), however, estrogen levels in the body begin to decline and factors such as high cholesterol and hypertension become more prevalent. And the risk of heart disease starts to dramatically increase around the age of 65 for women.
So, what can you do about it? Changing your lifestyle to healthy habits while you are young is one of the leading ways to help fight developing heart disease later in life. Typically, when women start to get older, it’s hard to lose weight and keep it off.
Another way to help with heart disease risks in this age range is to keep your routine checkups with the doctor and make sure they are monitoring for signs and symptoms, which could be something such as high blood pressure. Hypertension can be a huge factor for heart disease and stroke, and is more common in women over the age of 55. So, keeping your regular checkups with the doctor is important to make sure all your vitals and numbers are checking out fine.
At the end of the day, it’s important to take care of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in this fast-paced lifestyle and eating unhealthy foods or lying on the couch, binge watching television shows because we are too lazy to do anything else. Instead, get up and go for a walk. Try eating beyond your comfort level and try new, healthy foods. Whatever you do, try to think ahead and prevent yourself from becoming one of the most alarming statistics about heart disease.
Although there are some factors that you can’t control, there are many that you can. And, even if you have a family history of heart disease, it doesn’t mean you should increase is even more by chain-smoking cigarettes all day. So, ultimately, it’s up to you – now is the time to take action against heart disease.