On a recent visit to my GP with my young daughter, I was advised to make an appointment to have my cholesterol and blood pressure checked. As a 42 year old woman, should I be concerned about my risk of heart disease and stroke?
You are never too young when it comes to looking after your heart. In the past heart disease was very much considered ‘a man’s disease’ – but unfortunately cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 2 deaths among Irish women each year. That’s an average of one woman every two hours.
As a woman, your hormones may give you some protection against heart disease and stroke in your pre-menopause years. However once you reach the menopause, your risk significantly increases and continues to increase as you get older. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by as much as 20 percent.
Like most women, you probably make everything and everyone a priority, but your heart health should also be a priority. It is extremely important to have your cholesterol and blood pressure measured on a regular basis as part of an overall assessment of your cardiovascular risk. While the risk factors are the same for both men and women, some risks have more of a negative influence on women. For example:
- Smoking has a 25% greater impact on women developing heart disease;
- Diabetes is a stronger risk factor for heart disease in women;
- Menopause is associated with an increase in total and LDL cholesterol and a decline in HDL levels;
- and a positive family history is a stronger risk factor for women.
Women experience different symptoms of heart attack than men, which unfortunately means many women go undiagnosed and delay longer than men in seeking medical care.
The signs and symptoms to watch for include:
- shortness of breath
- back or jaw pain
- sharp pains between the shoulder blades or the back
- extreme fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms dial 999 immediately do not delay. For more information on healthy heart tips visit www.croi.ie.