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Feb 1, 2019

Heart disease still no. 1 killer of women — know your risk factors

Heart disease is still the no. 1 killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

Sadly, many women aren’t aware they’re at risk, and what factors increase their risk. Since February is National Heart Month, it’s the perfect time to find out.

Know the traditional risk factors for heart disease:

  • You’re 55 or older
  • You smoke
  • You have a family history of heart disease
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have high cholesterol
  • You’re not very physically active
  • You have diabetes

In addition to these, women face additional risk factors:

Pregnancy acts like a stress test: If you had pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, your risk for future cardiovascular risk is higher.

Connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and mixed connective tissue disease also puts a woman at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Breast cancer treatment: Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments used to treat breast cancer may increase your risk of heart disease.

Depression: Women’s hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men’s.

How can I lessen my risk of cardiovascular disease?

The good news is that by making modest changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by as much as 80 percent.

Though you can’t control your age or genetic factors, you can control some risk factors to heart disease. Quit smoking, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise moderately for 30 minutes most days and keep your weight at a healthy level.

Physical activity is one of the modifiable risk factors that affects cardiovascular disease. Moving more and sitting less will benefit nearly everyone, according to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. When you exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins that naturally boost your mood. Exercise also decreases the release of stress hormones.

Any amount of physical activity can help decrease cardiovascular disease risk, according to the newest 2018 guidelines from the American College of Cardiology. The recommended amount of activity is 150 minutes of moderate/vigorous activity weekly, along with two days of muscular strength training. Both aerobic and muscle strengthening are beneficial.

Finding out your coronary artery calcium score might be a helpful tool to identify early atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). To schedule a calcium test, call 253-792-6220.

For women at high risk and those who haven’t had blood work done in a long time, visit your doctor for a heart check. Don’t wait for symptoms, since high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure can lead to heart disease well before they cause any symptoms.

Schedule a calcium score: 253-792-6220

Take a risk assessment for heart disease

Go Red for Women

February is National Heart Month, and Feb. 1 is National Wear Red Day. Wear red to raise awareness that heart disease is the no. 1 killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

Read more Heart Month stories

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