From the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
When you hear the term “heart disease,” you may think, “That’s a man’s disease” or “Not my problem.” But here is The Heart Truth®: one in four women in the United States dies of heart disease, while one in 30 dies of breast cancer. If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem.
What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
An astonishing 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factor for heart disease. Having one or more risk factors dramatically increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease because risk factors tend to worsen each other’s effects. In fact, according to research compiled by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), having just one risk factor doubles your chance of developing heart disease.
Whatever a woman’s age, she needs to take action to protect her heart health. Heart disease can begin early, even in the teen years, and women in their 20s and 30s need to take action to reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Yet among U.S. women ages 18 and older, 17.3 percent are current smokers, 51.6 are overweight (BMI of 25 or greater), 27 percent have hypertension, 35 percent have high cholesterol, and 53 percent do not meet physical activity recommendations. African American and Hispanic women, in particular, have higher rates of some risk factors for heart disease and are disproportionately affected by the disease compared to white women. More than 80 percent of midlife African American women are overweight or obese, 52 percent have hypertension, and 14 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes. Some 83 percent of midlife Hispanic women are overweight or obese, and more than 10 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes.
How Do I Find Out if I Am at Risk for Heart Disease?
Some women believe that doing just one healthy thing will take care of all their heart disease risk. For example, they may think that if they walk or swim regularly, they can still smoke and stay fairly healthy. This is wrong. To protect your heart, it is vital to make changes that address each risk factor you have.
A damaged heart can damage your life by interfering with enjoyable activities and even your ability to do simple things, such as taking a walk or climbing steps. Heart disease cannot be “cured.” It is a lifelong condition — once you get it, you’ll always have it.
Fortunately, it’s a problem you can do something about. Find out your risk for heart disease and take steps to prevent and control it. Talk to your doctor to get more answers. Start taking action today to protect your heart. By doing just four things — eating right, being physically active, not smoking, and keeping a healthy weight — you can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 82 percent.