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Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease in Women

Concept of heart

According to the AHA (American Heart Association) coronary heart disease kills more women in the USA than any other illness. During your lifetime, cholesterol-based plaque accumulates, sticking to the walls of your arteries and making them narrower.

If they get too narrow, the blood pressure builds up and they can burst, causing a heart attack.

Risk factors may be genetic, age-related, or to do with your lifestyle. Women with high blood pressure and unmanaged diabetes are at higher risk.

A poor diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and lack of exercise increase the buildup of plaque and your chances of heart disease. But you can lower your risk by understanding the signs and symptoms and reducing lifestyle risk factors.

With heart disease, prevention is better than cure. Women who may be at risk should speak to a doctor, who can run diagnostic tests and recommend treatments and lifestyle changes. The AHA also recommends all women to take the following steps to reduce the risk of heart disease:

1. Don’t Smoke

Smoking increases your chance of heart disease by up to 50%. If you smoke, take steps to cut down or stop altogether. If you find it difficult, talk to your doctor, who can recommend methods to help you kick the habit.

2. Cut Down Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in your blood. It’s natural and plays an important role in your body’s health. But if your cholesterol level is too high and causes plaque to build up in your arteries, you may be at serious risk. Your doctor can test your cholesterol level and if it’s high, work with you to reduce it with medication and changes to your diet and lifestyle.

3. Check Your Blood Pressure

You should have your blood pressure taken every two years. High blood pressure combined with plaque in the arteries is very dangerous. Again, your doctor can recommend treatment. You may need medication, or simple changes in diet and exercise may be enough to keep you safe.

4. Get Up and Get Moving

To keep your heart healthy, you need to exercise. Most women don’t do enough to promote positive heart health. The best exercises for your heart are aerobics, swimming, jogging, dance, brisk walking, and even vigorous housework. The AHA recommends you do at least three or four half-hour sessions a week to stay well. 5. Maintain a Healthy BMI

BMI stands for “body mass index”. A healthy BMI should be between 21 and 25. You can work out your BMI with the following formula:

Weight (kg) / height (m)2

So, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. If your BMI is over 25, you’re probably overweight. Eating a healthy diet and doing more exercise should bring your weight down and lower your BMI. Your doctor can give you advice about weight management and healthy exercise.

6. Control Diabetes

Your doctor can do a blood test to see if you have diabetes. Diabetic women are at higher risk of heart disease. But you can control diabetes with medication and the right diet. If you have, or think you may have, diabetes, take medical advice.

7. Understand Your Family Medical History

If your brothers, sisters, parents or grandparents have a history of heart disease, you are at higher risk. It’s important to inform you doctor about your family’s medical history. But even if you haven’t any history of heart problems in your family, you still need to live a healthy lifestyle to avoid starting one.

8. Hormone Replacement at Menopause

After menopause, the risk of heart disease in women increases. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can lower your risk in later life. When you reach menopause, discuss your options with your doctor.

Women should know the signs and symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks.

While heart attacks can be sudden, they’re not always as dramatic as portrayed in movies and on the TV. If you recognize the symptoms soon enough and get the right treatment, it could save your life. Common symptoms include:

• Pain, pressure, or uncomfortable “fullness” in the middle of your chest

• Sharp pain in your shoulders and neck spreading into your arms

• A tight feeling in your chest accompanied by dizziness, sweating, difficulty breathing, and feeling sick

• Sudden anxiety, weakness, and palpitations without a known cause

If you experience any of these symptoms don’t wait: get medical attention. While these symptoms may be the signs of other problems, the sooner a heart attack is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of survival.

If in doubt, check it out. As a woman, it’s important to take responsibility for your health and proactive steps to decrease your risk of heart disease.

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