Heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, about one out of every four women dies from cardiovascular disease. Another worrisome statistic from the CDC is that about two-thirds of women that die suddenly of cardiovascular disease did not have symptoms prior to the fatal event.
But there are several things women can do to decrease their risk of developing heart disease. Learning more about heart disease, including the risk factors, is one of the first steps women can take to maintain heart health.
Causes of Heart Disease in Women
The causes of heart disease in women are similar to the causes in men. For example, being overweight, smoking, and inactivity are common controllable risk factors for heart disease. But there may be some differences in how those risk factors affect men and women.
One study involved 5,081 participants including 28 percent of whom were women that had a heart attack. The study found that common risk factors were more strongly associated with a heart attack in women as compared to men. For example, high blood pressure increased a woman’s risk of having a heart attack by approximately 83 percent more than it did in a man. (1)
Another difference between men and women is the role estrogen may play in cardiovascular health. When estrogen levels decline, such as shortly before and during menopause, it may increase a woman’s chances of heart disease. It’s not that menopause causes cardiovascular disease, but estrogen is believed to have a protective effect on the heart. As levels decline, a woman loses that protection. According to the American Heart Association, estrogen is thought to promote flexibility of the blood vessels, which helps blood flow freely.
Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
When you think of symptoms of a heart attack, a person clutching their chest may come to mind. Although chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack, it does not always occur. Also, symptoms of a heart attack can present somewhat differently in women than in men.
One study involved a survey of 515 women with an average age of 66 that had a heart attack. Less than a third of the women reported having chest pain before their heart attack. The study also indicated that the most common symptoms reported in women were sleep disturbance, unusual fatigue, and shortness of breath. (2)
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women are also more likely to experience the following symptoms of a heart attack as opposed to men:
- Pain in the neck, back or jaw
Women may not only develop different symptoms, but their outcomes after a heart attack may also vary from a man’s. In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that women that had a heart attack were more likely to die than men. The research indicated that women were about 50 percent more likely than men to be misdiagnosed. They were also less likely to receive invasive coronary treatments. The unequal treatment was thought to be the cause of more fatal heart attacks. (3)
How Women can Prevent Heart Disease Naturally
Certain risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, are uncontrollable. But there are things a woman can do to decrease her chances of cardiovascular disease without taking prescription medication, which can have side effects. Below are natural ways to prevent heart disease.
Natural Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eat a diet that includes healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, as well as lean protein. Eat healthy oils and fats, such as eggs, butter, avocados, cheeses, olives, olive oil, wild-caught salmon, fish oil, and coconut oil. Avoid foods high in sodium and trans fats. Avoid sugar and high-carbohydrate diets of wheat, corn, and other grains, which all promote inflammation and can lead to heart disease. The Hotze Optmal Eating Program is a great healthy eating program.
Take bioidentical estrogen: As your estrogen levels decline during menopause, your risk of heart disease can increase. Taking bioidentical estrogen can lower your risk. Bioidentical hormones canalso relieve menopausal symptoms.
Exercise regularly: Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally decrease your risk of heart disease. Try to do some form of cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, swimming, or dancing, for about 30 minutes on most days.
Manage stress in healthy ways: Stress can raise the level of cortisol in your body, which may also increase inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Find healthy ways to lower stress, such as spending time with friends, playing with your pets, and listening to music.
Don’t smoke: If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking can damage the arteries and affect blood flow to the heart and brain. Hypnosis, smoking cessation classes, and nicotine patches are all options to stop smoking.
Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of heart disease, as well as a variety of other health problems. If you are overweight, talk with your healthcare provider about sensible ways to lose weight and keep it off.
Vitamins to Promote Heart Health
In addition to the steps above, there are several vitamins that promote heart health. The great thing about heart-healthy vitamins is that they are also good for your overall health. The following supplements provide cardiovascular support:
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C produces collagen to help repair your arteries. Vitamin C helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promotes artery health.
- Magnesium citrate: Magnesium citrate deficiencies can contribute to heart arrhythmias and hypertension. Magnesium helps regulate the heart rhythm and lower blood pressure. Taking supplements is a great way to make sure you are getting enough of this essential mineral.
- Berberine: Berberine inhibits fat storage, which may help you maintain a healthy weight. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits and supports healthy triglyceride levels.
- Ubiquinol: Ubiquinol is the biologically reduced form of ubiquinone, also known as coenzyme Q10. It is an antioxidant that promotes heart health. It is especially important for adults over 40. It may also lower blood pressure and stimulate the immune system.
- L-Lysine: L-Lysine is an amino acid that is in healthy fats, such as avocados. It has several benefits including providing cardiovascular support.
- L-Proline: L-Proline is an amino acid that helps promote cardiovascular health. It is essential for the synthesis of collagen.
A Heart Scan Can Save Your Life
So how do you know if you are at risk? The only noninvasive way to determine whether you have coronary artery disease is by having a CT Heart Scan procedure. If you find out that you have plaque buildup, then you can do something to reverse it. It’s best to catch it as early as possible. This procedure only takes about 10 minutes to perform. Call 281-579-3600 to schedule your CT Heart Scan today.
- Sex differences in risk factors for myocardial infarction: cohort study of UK Biobank participants
- Women with heart attacks have characteristic symptoms, says new study
- Sex Differences in Treatments, Relative Survival, and Excess Mortality Following Acute Myocardial Infarction: National Cohort Study Using the SWEDEHEART Registry