Heart disease in women usually develops 7 to 8 years later than it does in men and is the leading cause of death in those over 65. Researchers do not yet know why females also do not tend to recover from heart attacks as well as do men. Theories have suggested that females don’t pursue medical attention for themselves as early or perhaps their heart muscles are smaller and cannot endure the sudden attacks. Also, symptoms of heart disease in women do not present themselves as obviously as in males which may also account for the lack of personal attention to a developing problem.
Risk factors for the condition are generally the same for both sexes except for hormone replacement therapy. HRT has been recognized as a risk factor in heart disease in women who use synthetic hormones at the onset of menopause. Replacing estrogen during menopause can alleviate hot flashes and other uncomfortable side effects of natural aging. It also can help to protect the deterioration of bone mass through osteoporosis. Up until recently, HRT was also thought to protect against symptoms of heart disease in women. Now, studies show that using hormone replacement therapy can negatively affect a woman’s health.
Other factors that put both females and males at risk of heart disease are smoking, high cholesterol, inactivity, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heredity and age. Smoking significantly elevates the chances of developing heart disease in women. Scientific research has shown that half of all women who experience heart attacks before the age of 50 are smokers. Research also states that if a smoker stops, she can lower her risk of disease by one third within 2 years time. That’s an incredible positive motivation for women to stop smoking even if they’ve smoked most of their lives. Also, women who use birth control pills while continuing to smoke increase the risk factors for coronary disease even more.
Second hand smoke can be a factor as well and females who live in households with a smoker are at increased risk. High cholesterol is commonly known to be one of the most important factors in creating or reducing the risk for coronary conditions. While the body naturally makes its own cholesterol as an important source for cells and hormones, people also ingest more hormones through red meat, dairy products and eggs. Reducing cholesterol intake from dietary sources can help to lower LDL cholesterol. There are also medications that can be prescribed by a doctor, which can further reduce bad cholesterol levels.
For those who are particularly at risk, diet and medication may be important to maintain appropriate levels of cholesterol in the body. Obesity is a common factor that not only contributes to the symptoms of heart disease in women, but also affects other conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure. Controlling weight gain is particularly difficult in females when they reach the mid-life mark simply because of the change in body chemistry due to menopause. Those who are overweight already can put their lives at even more risk during this time when their chances of a heart attack suddenly escalate.
No matter how difficult it may be, it is possible to control weight gain and actually benefit from weight loss no matter how old a female is at the time. There are many benefits to weight loss such as less strain on the heart, skeletal frame and other related conditions. Receiving medical or nutritional help is worth the effort in order to live a longer, productive life. Diabetes can be related to obesity in some women and loosing weight can also produce positive affects on this condition. Some women have actually diminished the symptoms of diabetes as well as their risk for heart disease by controlled weight loss.
High blood pressure is a common problem among females that can also be affected by weight loss, although not entirely. Just as in the development of cholesterol, there are some genetic links to those who have high blood pressure. Heredity presents risk factors that cannot be entirely controlled. They can, however, be minimized by a medical treatment plan. Age is a primary factor for heart disease in women with the risk becoming even with men when females reach 65 years of age.
Women can lower their risk for coronary disease by eating a healthy diet, exercising frequently, scheduling consistent, medical checkups and watching for any symptoms. Symptoms of heart disease in women may be subtle, but should not be ignored. Signs to watch for are cold sweats, extreme fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, pain the neck, chest or jaw and feelings of discomfort or anxiety. Females should be aware that over 60% of all women who die of coronary attacks had no symptoms at all. Paying attention to the small, uncomfortable symptoms is important and heading to a doctor at the first sign of problems is necessary for every woman, especially when she reaches 50 years of age.