Facts don’t lie and when it comes to women and their hearts, knowing the truth can be like holding up a mirror revealing what is really going on inside. The truth is heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. About 1 in 4 deaths each year of women is heart-related. Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” about the same number of women and men die each year of this disease in the United States.
For women, there are certain truths when it comes to their heart health and heart disease. Unfortunately, these truths could be putting them on a path towards developing heart disease.
It’s time for women to know these eye-opening truths women. Women should be informed and enlightened on how to assess their heart disease risk and how to avoid unnecessary surprises in the future:
Depression is bad for the heart
Depression, loneliness, and social isolation are heart disease troublemakers that can lead to a greater risk of a woman having a heart attack. Conditions such as these can increase levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Increases in these two hormones can raise blood pressure and inflammation, both known for not being a friend to our heart by adding on extra stress. Women who may be experiencing these feelings are more likely to not be taking the best care of themselves by eating a healthy diet, exercising, reducing stress, and are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol excessively, all of which can increase heart disease.
Check out “Dealing with depression and loneliness” to help break free of this state of mind.
Lack of and quality of sleep matter
The number of hours of sleep each night makes a difference. Women logging in less than 5 hours a night can have elevated levels of cortisol and inflammatory cytokines which promote heart disease by increasing blood sugar levels and blood pressure. This same lack of sleep can also result in a woman having 50% more calcium in their coronary arteries which is an early marker of heart disease, than women who get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
Quality of sleep matters also. Women who toss and turn all night, have sleep apnea, or just don’t feel well-rested when they wake up have about 20% more calcium in their arteries than women who slept more soundly.
Check out “Healthy sleep tips” for a good night’s sleep.
Even thin women can be at risk
It is generally established that being overweight or obese puts one at risk of heart disease. But many women who are thin and appear to be well can still have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Blame it on genetics because if hypertension and high cholesterol runs in a family, this can put a woman at risk no matter what her body weight is. Body mass index (BMI) may not necessarily be that helpful as even women with a normal BMI can still have high amounts of visceral fat – the body fat stored deep within your abdomen that surrounds your liver, pancreas and intestines. Visceral fat is considered particularly dangerous because it secretes cytokines which are inflammatory substances toxic to the heart. This dangerous type of fat can also raise the risk for metabolic risk factors such as high blood sugar and high triglycerides, both indicators of increased risk for heart disease.
Check out “The best way to beat belly flab” getting rid of visceral fat once and for all.
Pregnancy health plays a role
Women who experienced high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes during pregnancy may be at a greater risk for future heart disease, even if symptoms disappeared post-delivery. Pregnant women who had even small increases in blood pressure during pregnancy may be at a high risk of developing metabolic syndrome after giving birth.
Check out “Twelve steps to a healthy pregnancy” to help beat the odds of developing health issues during pregnancy.
The more fit a woman is past the age of 40, the better
Women who spend the time and effort getting and keeping themselves in good shape past the age of 40 are 37 percent less likely to suffer a stroke after age 65 than women who become out of shape during this stage of life. One of the best things a woman can do is to exercise on a regular, consistent basis to prevent and combat cardiovascular disease.
Even if a woman is past the age of 40 and has not exercised much, they can still reap benefits by increasing their physical activity to at least 150 minutes or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to reduce their heart disease risk.
Check out “Cardio workouts – fix yours”
Your heart loves food high in healthy fats
The type of fat is key to achieving heart health rather than so much the amount. Women should replace saturated fats by choosing instead healthier fats found in mono- and polyunsaturated food fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, herring, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel.
Check out “13 healthy high-fat foods you should eat more”
Warning signs of a heart attack or heart trouble women should not ignore:
A heart attack in women can look different than what’s typically shown on TV or in the movies of someone clutching their chest, writhing in pain. Knowing warning signs of heart trouble is important as it can be confused with other ailments such as indigestion or a panic attack. When in doubt, call 911.
- Tightness, heaviness, pressure, or a squeezing sensation in your chest or back
- Tingling down one or both arms or legs
- Shortness of breath/racing heart
- Jaw pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Nausea/vomiting – especially if it comes with other heart-related symptoms such as shortness of breath, a cold sweat or chest pain