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Heart Disease - The Number One Killer In Women

Aug 17, 2007
Heart disease has long been known as the biggest killer of men, but it often comes as a surprise to many people to learn that it's also the number one cause of death in women.

According to recent studies more than 8 million American women are currently living with some form of the condition and, in fact, more women than men die of heart disease each year, mainly because the retired population is predominantly women.

Heart disease in women can be diagnosed and treated but the real key to staying healthy is prevention - once a woman finds out she has the disease, it may already be too late. Chances are that the woman concerned has engaged in several risk factors throughout her lifetime that contributed to the problem. The factors that increase the risk in women include cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, inactivity, diabetes and obesity. That now covers a large, and growing, slice of the general population.

Women have to understand that these risk factors need to be avoided as much as possible because they are so susceptible. With just a few lifestyle changes, all women can live long and healthy lives without any increased risk of heart problems.

There are inevitably factors that increase the risk in women that can't be helped or avoided. These include age, heredity, the effects of the menopause, etc. However, by knowing and understanding the effect of these factors, women can arm themselves with as much information as possible to take the action necessary to minimize the worst of the effects.

The Change of Life

The Cleveland Clinic Heart Center explains how menopause changes the risks for women. Post-menopause, a woman's body experiences reduced estrogen production, changes in cholesterol levels, changes in the structure of blood vessels, and increased production of the clotting agent fibrinogen.

No one yet knows exactly how much a woman's risk is affected by each of these changes, but they are definitely associated with a greater risk of the disease. Women who have gone through menopause are two to three times more likely to suffer heart disease than a pre-menopausal woman of the same age. Women that have had a hysterectomy experience these same raised risk factors.

In the past, scientists studying women and heart disease hypothesized that hormone replacement therapy could help post-menopausal women fight heart disease; however, long-term studies do not confirm that preliminary idea and doctors no longer recommend hormone replacement therapy for the condition. Menopause we cannot change, but other risk factors are under our control.

Using hormonal birth control (the pill or the patch) is considered safe for women under thirty-five. As of now, doctors do not have proof that birth control hormones can increase or decrease problems for women and heart disease, especially after the age of thirty-five. When talking about the risk factors with your doctor, get his or her opinion on your personal situation.

Changing Your Lifestyle

Heart disease in women doesn't need to have such a high morality rate. By adopting a few lifestyle changes - getting more exercise, eating right, quitting smoking and reducing stress levels - women can drastically reduce the problem. This is important not only for heart disease but for other diseases as well.

Heart disease in women claims many lives each year but the condition can be manageable and preventable. Women need to study and learn as much as they can about the subject. Too few women know that they have such a high probability of getting the disease but by understanding and using this information they will gain the necessary advantage to, one day, making heart disease in women a thing of the past.
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