September 4, 2013

Tips & Stats: On Women & Heart Disease.

Photo: Urbane Women Mag on Flickr.

When you think of heart disease, it is more common to call it a “man’s problem” than we care to admit.

The media announces “men who suffer from heart disease” all too often. Athletes, powerful men in Congress, even the occasional regular civilized man gets more press regarding this number one illness on the current list of medical diseases.

But, it is simply not the case.

There is a myth that men tend to experience more heart failure and diseases than women.

As men are immersed in the corporate world and their stress levels are elevating to greater heights, so too are their risk factors becoming more prominent in society. However, even though men are plagued with this reality, more women than men die within the first year of having a heart attack, and more women than men die each year from congestive heart failure.

Although men have heart disease and numerous risk factors, such as obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, it is women who are outpacing the men in the heart disease category, as the number one killer in the United States.

Most of the studies are proving that heart disease in middle-aged women (between the ages of 40 to 60) show more risk.

A notable doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles studied the differences between men and women and heart disease.

She believes that women may suffer from a completely different type of heart disease than men, one in which the arteries are completely unable to dilate and can spasm closed.

This is a dysfunction that can occur in half of all middle-aged women with open coronary arteries, which may explain why many women go undiagnosed. This lack of plaque build-up makes the heart condition more difficult for the doctors to detect.

By midlife, almost one third of women have two or more modifiable risk factors: obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

These women are also now more prone to be in the stressful workforce, which adds to the development of heart disease.

As wellness professionals all over the United States are discovering, it is imperative to help women understand the importance and necessity of broad lifestyle changes and dietary habits to ensure that the heart is running smoothly and the risk of heart failure is minimal.

A simple 30 to 45 minute walk or run each day, a heart healthy diet, daily stress reduction exercises (meditation/yoga), and healthy relationships and connections all contribute to a quality lifestyle.

This is nothing new.

The mere fact that women suffer more may come as a surprise, but when you truly think about heart disease, women as a whole weren’t prepared long ago to endure the amounts of pressures and stresses that have been placed on them. This is simply a wake-up call to be mindful of taking care of ourselves, and not view self-care as selfish.

Women and heart disease became more prominent in the early 90’s, as more women were returning to work to support the family. They still managed to exercise and eat right, but demands on their self-care time were compromised.

Personal trainers and private nutritionists started playing greater roles in the lives of busy women.

Yet, the lower income women’s population, who are unable to afford this “luxury” of private sessions, were either finding ways to get creative with their fitness and health, or foregoing the health craze altogether, simply because they couldn’t afford it. The latter group is more at risk of heart disease mainly because they don’t have the knowledge as to what steps to take to prevent the risks.

Now, all women are being given information through many professionals, either online or in person, on how to benefit the heart, the mind and the body.

They have the tools at their disposal, whether they choose to participate or not. The timing couldn’t be more appropriate.

Studies are showing that middle-aged women are making smart and solid decisions in their health and lifestyle choices, and this trend will continue if the audience is captivated by the results.

Heart disease can be helped and transformed in each and every woman.

With numerous resources at hand, women can consciously decide to alleviate their risk factors by eating wisely, sparingly and only for energy purposes. This alone will help with obesity, which is at an all-time high in today’s society. The significant changes in habits, from diet to exercise to taking time for you in quiet and peaceful moments will only add to a well-rounded program of heart disease prevention.

Now is the time to alter the studies and prove that quality over quantity will result in fewer heart disease cases in women.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

References: Womenheart, Mayo Clinic, WebMD

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