What is Heart Health?
Heart health means keeping your body healthy in order to help your heart effectively pump blood where it’s needed. Heart conditions are often caused by plaque buildup in the veins, stress on the heart, and blood clots. Although some congenital factors can cause poor heart health, many women experience heart problems because of lifestyle factors.
A diet that is high in cholesterol is often the biggest cause of heart attacks in both men and women. Additionally, foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars can contribute to poor heart health. Along with the quality of your food, eating too much and being overweight can increase your risk of several heart conditions.
Getting enough activity each day is integral to making sure your heart stays healthy and strong. For most women, however, it can be difficult to get enough activity to lower your risks, especially if you work an inactive job. As you age, it can be more difficult to become active, meaning it’s important to remain active over your lifetime.
Chronic stress can be detrimental to your heart’s health because it exposes your body to unhealthy levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Stress can also change the way in which your blood clots, leading to a higher risk of heart attack. If you are regularly exposed to stressful environments, it can take a toll on your long-term health.
Smoking and Alcohol Use
Tobacco and alcohol both have similar effects on your heart’s health. However, any amount of smoking can have a greater negative effect on your heart health than any amount of drinking. Women can experience more negative effects from drinking the same amount as men, so it’s important to limit the number of drinks you have.
Why is Heart Health Important?
There are a few factors that mean heart health affects women differently. The first is the impact of estrogen— it’s thought that estrogen plays an important part in maintaining the health of your organs and tissues throughout your premenopausal life. Once estrogen begins to decline with menopause, the risk of heart disease can go up. Additionally, women are less likely to recover from a heart attack than men and even experience different symptoms which are not commonly known.
What Steps Can I Take?
The most important steps you can take to optimize your heart’s health are lifestyle changes like making sure you get the right nutrients and enough exercise each week. A heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy protein can help maintain your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar over time. Additionally, you should get at least thirty minutes of moderate activity (enough to get your heart pumping) each day.
You should also assess your lifestyle and make changes to your smoking habits (if any) and limit yourself to one drink per day. It’s also important to speak with your gynecologist about your heart disease numbers like your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. Your gynecologist can discuss what levels you should aim for by making the right lifestyle changes.
Learn More on the Healthful Woman Podcast
Schedule an Appointment
It’s never too early to start helping out your heart. Our expert team can help you make the right steps to lower your risks and keep your heart healthy for the long term. To meet with our gynecologists, we invite you to schedule an appointment by calling or filling out our online form.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is heart disease diagnosed in a woman?
Heart disease is diagnosed by a physician who will review the patient’s symptoms, review blood tests (primarily to measure cholesterol and triglycerides), and potentially order other tests such as an EKG or a stress test. Common heart disease symptoms in women include chest pain, upper back pain, nausea, pain in the neck, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Does your body warn you before a heart attack?
Early symptoms before a heart attack may include chest pain, heart palpitations, cold sweats, or shortness of breath. Women may also feel fatigue, back pain, abdominal pain, and decreased stamina. These symptoms can occur months before a heart attack.
At what age do most heart attacks occur?
Heart attacks in women are most common at age 55 or older.
Can doctors tell if you had a heart attack?
Doctors can determine whether you have had a heart attack through tests like an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) or echocardiogram.
Can you have a heart attack while on blood pressure medication?
Yes, heart attacks may still occur while on blood pressure medication. Some studies have even shown that blood pressure medications may increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.