For many moms, the needs and responsibilities of their families means putting their own needs on the back burner. But ignoring their own health can puts moms at risk for heart disease down the road.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death, touching one in four women, according to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. The American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee reported that women have a 28 percent increased risk of death in the first year following a heart attack, compared to men.
Some women can predict the likelihood of heart disease because of a family history of conditions, such as abdominal aortic aneurysm, a weakening or swelling of the largest artery in the body running through the abdomen. But many women also can control factors pointing to a higher risk of heart disease, including high blood-pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, poor diet, smoking, being overweight and physical inactivity.
It’s never too early to learn how to reduce the risks for heart disease. Here is what moms need to know so they eventually can evolve into healthy grandmothers:
It’s easy to believe youth grants immunity, but the rate of sudden cardiac death for women in this age range increased 21 percent in the 1990s, much faster than for men in the same age range, reports the journal Circulation. Even if a woman does not appear to be at immediate risk in her 30s, many are having children at this age. The complications some experience during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or low-birth-weight babies, may point to cardiovascular disease in the future. Women with these conditions should consider managing their risk factors for heart disease more aggressively. In addition, smoking greatly increases the risk of heart attack for women younger than 45, and smoking in combination with the use of birth control pills increases a woman’s risk by at least 20 times.
The 40s and 50s
Though menopause is a natural occurrence for women between the ages of 45 and 50, medical experts believe the loss of estrogen may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. Other factors that may contribute to the increased risk include changes in the walls of the blood vessels, which encourages the formation of plaque and blood clots; changes in the level of fats in the blood; and an increase in fibrinogen, the protein that helps blood clot, according to WebMD.com. Though it at one time was believed that hormone replacement therapy was a solution to the loss of estrogen, recent research has shown that perhaps it’s more harmful than helpful. The Women’s Heart Foundation reports that women are two to three times as likely to die following heart bypass surgery, compared to men. Women ages 40 to 59 are up to four times more likely to die from heart bypass surgery than men in the same age range.
The 60s and older
The American Heart Association reports low-levels of good cholesterol (HDL) are a stronger predictor of heart disease death in women than in men older than 65.