Heart Disease Risk Factors for Women

Heart Disease Risk Factors for Women

Although several traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity — affect women and men, other factors may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women. For example, risk factors may include:
 
  • Diabetes. Women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart disease than are men with diabetes.
  • Mental stress and depression. Women's hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men's. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment, so talk to your doctor if you're having symptoms of depression.
  • Smoking. In women, smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.
  • Inactivity. A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease, and some research has found women to be more inactive than men.
  • Menopause. Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (coronary microvascular disease).
  • Broken heart syndrome. This condition — often brought on by stressful situations that can cause severe, but usually temporary, heart muscle failure — occurs more commonly in women after menopause. This condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy.
  • Pregnancy complications. High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase women's long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and increase the risk of development of heart disease in the mothers.Some research has found that if you had pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes your children may also have an increased risk of heart disease in the future.
Women with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, may also have a higher risk of heart disease. Research is ongoing in other heart disease risk factors in women.
 
Is heart disease something only older women should worry about?
No. Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Women under the age of 65, and especially those with a family history of heart disease, need to pay close attention to heart disease risk factors.
 
What can women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?
Women can make several lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease, including:
 
  • Quit or don't start smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats. Avoid saturated or trans fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt.

Women also need to take prescribed medications appropriately, such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners and aspirin. And they'll need to better manage other conditions that are risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
 
This article was written by Mayo Clinic Staff and can be found, with other health and medical information, on mayoclinic.org.

Mayo Clinic News Network. Adapted by Palomar Health with permission. 

Palomar Health is part of The Mayo Clinic Care Network, a collection of hospitals and health care systems that have come together with Mayo Clinic with a purpose of improving care for the patients they collectively serve. LEARN MORE
 
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