Women’s heart health starts with understanding your risk factors for heart disease. Although heart disease has historically been associated with men more than women, it is in fact the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths in the United States each year.

The American Heart Association estimates that a woman dies every minute from heart disease, but many women are not aware of their risk. Approximately 4 out of 5 American women do not believe that heart disease is the greatest threat to their health. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Fortunately, there are things women can do to reduce their risk for heart disease. As a result of movements like the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women, more women are taking charge of their heart health.

What are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

While risk factors like age, race, lower estrogen levels after menopause and a family history of heart disease cannot be changed, there are many other risk factors for heart disease that can be controlled to improve women’s heart health. The biggest risk factors for heart disease that can be mitigated through treatment or lifestyle changes include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Stress
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Excessive alcohol use

How can Women’s Heart Health be Improved?

Women – and men – can make a number of lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease. The most important lifestyle changes for women’s heart health include:

  • Quitting smoking.
  • Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and protein, and that minimizes saturated fats, sugars and salt.
  • Getting plenty of regular exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Managing stress.
  • Regular checkups to determine if you have risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

To protect your heart, the best place to start is understanding your own unique risk profile. Online tools like this Heart Disease Risk Assessment are a good starting point. If you have existing health conditions, increased risk factors like a family history of heart disease or any signs or symptoms of heart disease, it’s best to seek professional medical help.

The experienced cardiologists at ACS can help you be ahead of heart disease. To make an appointment, call 318-798-9400.