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As a Woman, What’s My Risk Score For Developing Heart Disease?

Thursday, January 15, 2015
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The Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • Smoking - Smoking is one of the most preventable causes of heart disease.
    • Smokers have an increased risk for ischemic stroke and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Even regular exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk for non-smokers. Women smokers using birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than non-smokers who use them.
  • Cholesterol - HDL/LDL Levels - Research has shown that women's cholesterol levels are higher than men's from age 55 on. Diet and exercise can help control levels.
    • High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, while high levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol decrease the risk of heart disease. According to studies, low levels of HDL cholesterol appear to be a stronger risk factor for women than for men.
  • Blood pressure - High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and the most important risk factor for stroke. Again diet and exercise can help lower levels.
    • Obesity, family history, pregnancy, some birth control pills and menopause increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Active or Sedentary - Lack of physical activity increases the risk for heart disease.
    • Inactivity and an improper diet lead to an increase in weight, which itself is a big risk factor for developing a range of lifestyle diseases. The American Heart Association recommends accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in a week.
  • Weight / WHR- a healthy body weight is not only important for a healthy heart but also for preventing other lifestyle diseases. Obesity, especially central obesity is an important risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Diabetes / pre-diabetes- women with diabetes have a much higher risk for developing heart disease as compared to their male counterparts with diabetes. It is important for diabetic women to manage their diabetes well.
  • Stress – Increasingly data is suggesting the role of environmental and psychosocial factors towards the development of heart disease. Women must learn to effectively manage stress, either by getting involved in hobbies, yoga or exercise – activities that help them de-stress.

Assess your risk score for developing Cardiovascular Disease, based on the Framingham Studies - click here

Read - The 2011 Guidelines for Prevention of Heart Disease in Women

By Poonam Vaswani
Senior Dietitian, Nutritionvista



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User Comments

09 August, 2011 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Studies clearly show that premenopausal women are relatively protected from CAD and atherosclerosis as compared to postmenopausal women. Reason being the effects of the female sex hormone (estrogen) which is essential for healthy blood vessels (vasculature) just like the reproductive tissues, bone, liver, and brain.(However the exact mechanism is still not clear).
Probably the high level of homocysteine seen, found to correlate with accelerated cardiovascular disease and identified as an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis is brought about by low levels of estrogen
in post menopausal women.

09 April, 2011 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam Women who have had a history of hypertension or diabetes during pregnancy must keep a close watch on their parameters throughout life, because it is an indication that the systems are not functioning well and they get unmasked during pregnancy.

08 April, 2011 | Parul Bhatnagar | Reply

Parul Bhatnagar Unhealthy diet can contribute to these risk factors. If you eat too much of fried foods and take less than 5 serving of vegetables and 2 serving of fruits in your daily diet then the risk of heart diseases increases.

08 April, 2011 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Women especially who have a family history , smoke or have high BP, taking birth control pills greatly increases risk of heart attack and stroke, especially after age 35. Check with your Gyn before you get onto birth control pills to asses your condition and then prescribe.

08 April, 2011 | Dr.Kalyani | Reply

Dr.Kalyani Dear Viji I thought this study would make interesting reading. Its findings showed clearly how physical activity was associated with reduced risk of CVD among women. Inactive women would benefit by even slightly increasing their PA (e.g., walking 1 hour per week or possibly less) and even more from additional PA.

PMID: 15165657 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Most of your articles are highly informative, keep up your good work.

09 April, 2011 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Hey Dr Kalyani, Nice hearing from you after a long time. Thank you for the link. Yes, I did go through the study you sent and it did make sense.We need to take regular physical activity seriously as it positively reduces CVD risk. It Also reduces risk of a number of other health problems too like Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes etc. Totally appreciate your input and would like you to interact with us regularly.

09 April, 2011 | Mrinal | Reply

Mrinal Thank you Dr. Kalyani, This was interesting - good suggestion.

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Tags: Cardiovascular Disease, Cholesterol, Chronic Lifestyle Diseases, General health, Heart Health, Hypertension, Sedentary Lifestyle, Women's Health


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