Skip to Main Content
Female nurse making a heart shape with hands

Women’s Hearts Break, Too: Lifesaving Advice for Every Age

Heart disease was once considered a problem primarily for men. But women are just as likely to die from heart disease as men. In fact, it’s the number one cause of death for women and men, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. 

Women know we’re different from men in many ways, and the same applies to the heart. For example, did you know common pregnancy conditions can affect your heart years later? Or that menopause can affect your heart health? On the positive side, a recent study found that women benefit more from exercise than men when it comes to heart health. 

Prevention is still the best medicine. Steps you take as early as your 20s can help reduce your risk for heart disease and improve your overall health. 

During Your 20s and 30s

Prevention starts now. Establishing healthy habits at an early age has lifelong benefits. 

  • Know your heart stats. It’s not too early to keep track of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This information helps assess your heart health risks.
  • Learn your family history of heart disease. Be specific. Knowing if your relatives had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or heart attacks can help your provider better understand your risk factors and take steps to reduce them.
  • Pay attention to any complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. While temporary, these conditions can increase your risk of heart disease later in life.

Approaching Menopause

Stay on top of how your body is changing as it also impacts your heart risk. 

  • Be aware of hormone changes, which can cause blood vessels to harden more quickly and lead to high blood pressure and other heart problems.
  • Talk to your doctor about hormone therapy. It can help to reduce your risk of heart disease after menopause.
  • Make treating risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol a high priority.

Menopause and After

Managing your heart health is now essential as your risk of heart disease is at its highest.

  • Keep an eye on your blood pressure. It’s called the silent disease because there are no symptoms, so having your blood pressure checked regularly is essential. 
  • Know the signs of a heart attack. Crushing chest pain is most associated with heart attacks, but symptoms can be very different for women compared to men. You may experience nausea, dizziness, sweating, heart pounding, jaw pain, shoulder pain or even a sense of impending doom, for example. 
  • Don't ignore your symptoms. As caregivers, women sometimes put their own health last. Symptoms should never be ignored. 

Prevention at Every Age

No matter your age, you can take steps to help keep your heart healthy. 

  • Establish a trusted relationship with a primary care provider. Knowing your health history helps us work together to manage your risk of heart disease.
  • Eat a heart healthy diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit red meats and unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats.
  • Get regular exercise.  Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Pressed for time? Walking briskly for 10 minutes, three times a day benefits your heart.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure and risk for heart disease. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day for women.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do, ask your provider for help quitting. 
  • Manage stress. Try exercise, yoga, meditation or other ways to help manage daily stress. 

If you have concerns about your heart health, talk to your provider. Together, you reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health and well-being.

Sources:

Ji H, Gulati M, Huang TY, Kwan AC, Ouyang D, Ebinger JE, Casaletto K, Moreau KL, Skali H, Cheng S. Sex Differences in Association of Physical Activity With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2024 Feb 27;83(8):783-793. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2023.12.019. PMID: 38383092.

Stephanie Christensen, DNP, APRN
Stephanie Christensen, DNP, APRN

Stephanie Christensen, DNP, APRN is a Cardiology provider with CHI Health.

Related Articles

Implanted Heart Rhythm Devices

APR 08, 2024

A healthy lifestyle is very important to protect the electrical system of the heart. Once it gets damaged, the heart may have little ability to recover.

Read More

Is Pain During Intercourse Normal?

FEB 26, 2024

Dyspareunia is a condition that is experienced by 40 million American women. It can happen at all stages of a woman's life.

Read More

Sounding the Alarm: Eating Disorders on the Rise

FEB 15, 2024

An estimated 9% of the US population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. That’s nearly one in 10, or 28.8 million Americans.

Read More