Writer / Dr. Ibrahim Abu Romeh, Cardiologist at IU Health West Hospital
According to the American Heart Association, 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease at some point in their lives. However, 80% of those cardiovascular diseases are preventable. Here are some important things to know about heart health and how to keep your heart healthy.
Common Types of Heart Disease
The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD). It is caused by plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. CAD can also be referred to as ischemic disease. Another common type of heart disease is arrhythmia, which consists of an abnormal heartbeat.
Know Your Family Health History and Risk Factors
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports heart disease as the leading cause of death for women in the United States. It’s important to know if there’s a family history of heart disease, as it can influence your own risk and help guide decision making. Along with knowing your family health history, it’s important to know the other risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes, excessive alcohol use, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use and age. Women are generally protected in their reproductive age, whereas the risk increases after menopause.
Common symptoms of heart disease in women include pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea and extreme fatigue. These symptoms usually occur with exercise or during regular activities, but may show at rest sometimes. Some women may show no symptoms at all.
The most important preventive measure is to modify the major risk factors, which are smoking, diabetes and hypertension. Seek help for smoking cessation if you cannot do it on your own. Work with your doctor to control your diabetes. Studies have shown lack of sleep is connected to disease due to poor sleep being linked to high blood pressure. At least six hours of sleep per night is recommended. Getting an adequate amount of sleep also lowers chronic stress, which is another area of concern for women. Other ways to lower stress include eating healthy foods, staying active and talking to a trusted individual about your stress.
Working with a health care provider to check on your heart health and customize a treatment or prevention plan that fits your medical needs can make all the difference. Schedule an annual checkup with your primary care provider to assess your risk for heart disease and keep your heart strong.