While it is a common belief that cancer is the most common cause of death among women, it is actually heart disease. Approximately 33% of American women will die of heart disease or a complication of heart disease. There are several risk factors that put women at risk for heart disease including: obesity, poor diet, lack of good exercise habits, smoking and increased alcohol intake….sound familiar? Go Figure!
Risk Factors of Heart Disease:
1. PCOS: Having PCOS increases a woman’s chances of getting heart-related complications. This is due to the high insulin levels that have been associated with PCOS which increase the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. All of these conditions can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
2. Hypertension: Blood pressure is a measure of the force of the blood moving through the blood vessels. When elevated, blood pressure can indicate that the heart is moving harder to circulate the blood. This can be caused by a hardening of the blood vessel walls from plaque accumulation or atherosclerosis. Insulin resistance and obesity are also linked to elevated blood pressure.
3. High Cholesterol : Having PCOS can put you at risk for high cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of HDL (high density lipoproteins, or “good” cholesterol). Some cholesterol is a result of poor dietary intake, though our bodies also contribute significantly to ones cholesterol levels. Elevated levels of cholesterol is also one of the identifying factors of metabolic syndrome and can lead to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
4. Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is the build up of hard, fatty plaques in the arteries. This can damage the blood vessels and impede normal blood flow throughout the body. Without sufficient blood flow transporting nutrients and oxygen to the extremities and essential body organs, severe damage can occur.
So what can I…and all of you do to reduce the risk of developing heart disease later in life? I’m going to sound like a broken record but the solution is maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Even if you are one of those lucky individuals that is naturally skinny, you need to cut yiour intake of fats and sugar, and keep up with a daily exercise routine. Routine blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring are also important to make sure your levels are staying stable.
Click here to visit the American Heart Association’s website for more information on heart disease.