Heart disease is the number one killer of American men. However, it’s also an often overlooked danger to women, which is why the American Heart Association is urging Americans to wear red today, to raise awareness of the threat heart disease poses to everyone.
In fact, a new study suggests most people, not just women, underestimate their risk of heart disease or stroke. Young and middle-aged people in good health can be lulled into a false sence of security by projections that reassure people with an elevated lifetime risk because the projections only look ahead ten years.
Risk factors such as high cholesterol and hypertension can show up long befire there’s any immediate danger, but taking action sooner rather than later may be more effective.
A family history of heart disease is reason enough to consider a heart-healthy lifestyle even if you’re young and show no danger signs. It’s the biggest risk factor that can’t be changed, so you have to take special care to avoid the others. Similarly, if you smoke, your best bet is to quit, but failing that, it’s all the more important to moderate your alcohol intake and watch your diet.
Some risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Being overweight or physically inactive
- Being a smoker
Smoking, metabolic syndrome (a combination of abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol) and stress and depression increase a woman’s risk of heart disease more than a man’s. Moreover, when a woman’s estrogen levels drop, it increases her risk, as does a history of recurrent miscarriage.