It is a lingering dark cloud over the head of every women, but much more ominous post-menopause. Young women, while still having a low risk of heart disease (given health is good) have a risk equal to that of men, but in the period of time following cessation of ovulation (menopause) the risk is amplified significantly for the softer sex.
Though this threat is much more pronounced in older women, it is important to understand why this is so, so possible preventative measures can be instituted as soon as possible.
Frequently, the reasons women may experience more symptoms of heart disease include:
Altered Blood Lipids (Cholesterol Values)
A pre-menopausal woman is generally at a reduced risk of heart disease compared to a man of the same age. Why? One major factor; estrogen. Estrogen is able to increase the levels of the good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood, while simultaneously reducing the bad (LDL). As menopause occurs, and estrogen levels plummet, this natural “defense” mechanism in lost, and the tide changes.
However, HDL and LDL are not the only indicators of impending heart disease, as triglycerides play an equal and likely greater role in development. Low HDL and high triglyceride levels are likely the culprits of heart disease.
Traditionally, women are less active than men, and are often less likely to get involved in some sort of physical activity. This is one of the major contributing factors to heart disease, as exercise helps to reduce blood lipid levels, improve insulin sensitivity and function and build muscle mass (which then supports a healthy metabolism).
Women that do not partake in physical exercise are predisposed to development of metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms, which include resistance to insulin, excessive abdominal fat and more. Metabolic syndrome exponentially increases the risk of developing heart disease or death via heart attack.
Smoking is bad for everyone, but women who smoke may experience a two-fold risk of heart disease than when compared to men. Women are also more likely to be unsuccessful in cessation treatment (such as with using nicotine) and coupled with reduced estrogen protection post-menopause, is a recipe for disaster.
Stress And Depression
Women suffer from symptoms of depression more frequently than men do, and may not handle the influence of stress as efficiently.
Disruption of the normal hormonal and neuro-chemical balance ion the body, predisposing to other conditions such as high blood pressure, hastened atherosclerotic blockages (deposits in blood vessels) and reduced amount of circulating endorphins.
Endorphins are protective on the heart, and keeping stress levels low. Depression and stress act in a negative synergistic way to promote development of heart disease.
How Can Women Reduce Their Risk?
The good news is, by making smart lifestyle changes today, you can minimize your risk of developing heart disease later in life, or if you are already en route, to take it in hand. Try following these tips:
Take Nutrition Seriously
Don’t take youth for granted. Eat lots of dark green vegetables, some of which help promote excretion of bile acids. Bile acids are made from cholesterol, so every time you promote removal, cholesterol levels drop in an attempt to make more. Fiber, and including good fats in your diet are a solid insurance option against heart disease.
Perform both a mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, which will keep the heart pumping efficiently, burning fatty acids, and strengthening muscle and bones, which will enable movement for a long time to come. Exercise also boosts endorphin levels, which help control depression and stress levels.
Smoking does nothing for you. The best way is to never start, a quitting is often difficult. Don’t fall victim to peer pressure or the “in-crowd.” Stand out, and do it for years to come!