Women's Heart Health
Did you know that your risk of heart disease increases about three-fold with each decade? For women, advancing age is considered a risk factor for heart disease after the age of 55. At the Louis & Peaches Owen Heart Hospital we know there is a big difference in the way men and women experience the signs of a heart attack. When it comes to the heart, men and women are not at all the same. Here are some ways in which we differ:
One of the reasons is menopause.
Before going through menopause, most women still have high levels of the female hormone estrogen in their blood. Estrogen produced by the body is thought to help protect the heart. After menopause, however, the levels of estrogen in a woman’s body drop significantly. On average, women develop heart disease about ten to 15 years later than men.
Another reason is because fatty plaques build up in the arteries over time.
As you get older, blockages in the arteries get larger and may cause problems. These blockages can reduce the amount of blood and oxygen that reach the heart, causing chest pain or heart attack.
How common is heart disease in older women?
More than 70 million Americans (37.6 million are women) have cardiovascular disease; almost 40% of these people are age 65 or older. On average, women have their first heart attack at age 70, while men have their first heart attack at age 66. For women who live to age 70 without heart disease, their remaining lifetime risk is 25%, while for men it is more than 30%.
Do birth control pills affect heart disease risk?
For women who do not have serious risk factors for heart disease, low-dose birth control pills do not pose a risk for heart disease. The same is true for women who wear a birth control patch, another type of hormonal contraceptive, which releases about the same amount of estrogen as low-dose birth control pills. Older birth control pills were found to increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 2.5 times, but evidence indicates that newer pills are safe.
Are women active enough?
No. Women are less likely to exercise regularly than men, and when women do work out, they exercise less vigorously than men. Almost 26% of women and 21% of men report no leisure-time physical activity; the numbers are even higher in some minority groups. About 30% of U.S. women are physically active on a regular basis versus 32% of men. During adolescence, girls, particularly African-American girls, tend to cut back on the amount of exercise they get. Learn more about Health & Fitness programs available at our regional Health & Fitness Centers.
If you have concerns about the health of your heart, pick up the phone and call 888-444-2344 to make an appointment to visit one of our specialists. At the Louis & Peaches Owen Heart Hospital, we take women’s health to heart.
For more information visit www.americanheart.org.