Heart Disease and Young Women

While the American Heart Association and health professionals are working to increase awareness of heart disease in women, not all women are getting the message.

Those who are missing this vital information? Women in their thirties, who don’t realize that heart disease is very real for threat for them. While these young women believe that they’re too young for heart disease, this is not the case. Risk factors often begin when women are in their twenties. The disease continues to develop over time.

Here are some of the frightening statistics for younger women*

• One in every three women over age 20 suffer from some form of heart disease.

• 35,000 women in the U.S. under the age of 55 have heart attacks each year.

• Twice as many women than men under the age of 50 die from heart attacks.

Risk Factors For Younger Women

Some of the common risk factors for younger women include the obvious ones: smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity; along with a sedentary lifestyle. Metabolic syndrome is another common risk factor for women of all ages. This is actually a group of factors which includes abdomen fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high triglyceride levels.

However, there are hidden risks as well. These include: high blood sugar during pregnancy, a history of missed periods by age 35, and low levels of vitamin D. A recent news report also listed depression as a major risk factor for heart disease in young women. In fact, according to a new study, women under the age of 55 who suffered from depression doubled their chance of having a heart attack or other form of heart disease.

How Young Women Can Protect Themselves

Women can begin protecting themselves from heart disease while in their twenties. This protection starts with a visit to their primary care doctor. This is particularly important if a woman has a family history of heart disease and heart attacks.

The visit to a doctor should include a heart wellness exam. This includes a blood cholesterol test (starting at age 20), blood pressure check, heart rate, body mass index and waist measurement. Knowing where you stand can motivate you to make lifestyle changes if needed.

Lifestyle modifications for young women

Cut back on sugar: it can increase artery-clogging triglyceride levels and decrease your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Don’t start smoking, and quit if you do smoke. This is extremely important if you take birth control pills. The combination of smoking and the pill can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Avoid secondhand smoke as well.

Eat foods that are on the “healthy” list: whole-grains, beans and other legumes, brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Don’t forget fatty fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, halibut, tuna, and sardines. Avoid the nasty trans-fats found in highly processed foods, fried foods, and store-bought baked goods. Eating healthier and limiting your sodium intake can also lower blood pressure levels and help you avoid or manage diabetes. It also improves cholesterol levels.

Learn to love exercise and physical activity. Once you find out what exercise can do for you, you’ll find it easy to love. Exercise is a great way to reduce the risk of heart disease. It also boosts our energy, lowers blood pressure, and improves our mental health. A current study shows that running, even just for short periods of time, (5 to 10 minutes a day) is a particularly good way to avoid heart disease. Add strength training to an exercise program for additional heart benefits.

Take vitamin D supplements if you have low levels of this vitamin. A vitamin D deficiency can be discovered through a simple blood test.

Visit your doctor if you think you’re suffering from depression. Prescription medications may help. Adding therapy may provide you with the additional benefit of being able to talk about issues you are facing. Regular exercise will also help reduce depression.

Why is it so important for young women to take care of their hearts? It’s because heart disease is the number one killer for women of all ages. One in four American women die of some form of heart disease each year, and more women than men die from heart attacks. But women can, and should, fight back; by making necessary changes to save their hearts, and their lives.