Dr Wald on heart health improvements by gender
Heart Health: Does Gender Matter?
What experts do know is that the following risk factors are a bigger threat to women's hearts than to men's. Mention them to your doctor, who may want to monitor you more closely if any apply to you.
It triples a man's risk of heart disease—but increases a woman's risk fivefold. Diabetes causes inflammation in the arteries, and women's tend to be smaller, says Tracy Stevens, MD, medical director for the women's heart center at Saint Luke's in Kansas City, Missouri.
Anyone who suffers from depression has a two- to fivefold increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but depression is twice as common in women as in men, says Hayes. Women are also more likely to become depressed if they
have a heart attack.
A real doozy for women, increasing our risk of heart disease 2 to 6 times. Women metabolize nicotine differently than men—possibly slower, exposing our bodies to its damaging effects longer—and smoking lowers protective HDL cholesterol.
"Women metabolize alcohol slower than men, so the effects linger for longer," says Dr. Goldberg. That's why the AHA recommends that women have only one drink per day (men can have two). Overdoing it can raise triglyceride levels, blood pressure and your risk of stroke.
Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Having low HDL (the good kind) and high triglycerides is an even greater threat to women's hearts than men's. The combo is often found in people with pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome; if you have either, avoid hormone therapy and birth control pills.
If you had high blood pressure or preeclampsia (a disorder marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine) during pregnancy, your chance of having heart disease at midlife doubles, even if you don't develop chronic hypertension, Dr. Goldberg says.
Women with high blood pressure are more likely to develop stiffness in their hearts and blood vessels. Yet research suggests that only 60% of women with hypertension are treated, and among those who are, only a third have their blood pressure well-controlled.
Video: Gender Matters: Heart Disease in Women - Marcella Calfon Press, MD | #UCLAMDChat Webinars
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