In fact, heart disease is the #1 killer of BOTH men and women in this country. Yet, when heart disease is discussed, we tend to think of it affecting primarily men.
Generally, women have a lower risk of heart or arterial problems before menopause. Thanks to their premenopausal protection, women tend to experience coronary heart disease about 10 years later than men. As menopause progresses, the chances of experiencing heart disease in women rises to match men of a similar age.
“Women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease,” says McLeod Cardiologist Nicolette Naso. “Preventing this deadly disease is primarily a matter of modifying your risk factors. First and foremost is hypertension.”
Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure (140 over 90 or higher) that is maintained over a long period of time. Pre-hypertension describes someone with a blood pressure higher than 120/80, a condition that can easily lead to heart problems if not controlled.
“Other risk factors — such as diabetes and the one I harp at my patients about, smoking — really increase your chances of a problem, even before menopause,” says Dr. Naso. “A heart attack in a premenopausal women is quite unusual…unless they smoke.
“I often see patients that don’t have coronary artery disease, but they may have palpitations or other health reasons that have brought them to me,” says Dr. Naso. “This is when we take preemptive action.”
Here are some tips from the American Heart Association to help prevent heart disease: