A Woman's Risk for Heart Disease is Different: Here's What You Need to Know

You've likely seen headlines or heard statistics – heart disease is a big issue in the United States for both men and women alike, causing one out of every four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the development of heart disease and its risk factors can vary by gender. Here's what you need to know about the risk factors unique to women:

  1. Your Hormones Could Be Affecting You
    Estrogen, the hormone responsible for the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system, has some interesting positive effects on the heart and blood vessels. Estrogen helps keep blood vessels flexible, which promotes good blood flow. It also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and soaks up particles in the blood that can damage arteries and other tissues. However, as women mature, their estrogen levels decrease, especially during menopause. After menopause, blood pressure, iron levels and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) levels can increase, and cardiovascular disease risk follows suit. Similarly, the risk of heart disease increases for those with hormone disorders, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which are heart disease risks.
  2. Pregnancy Complications May Be a Sign of Future Heart Problems
    If you experienced pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you could be at increased risk for heart disease as these conditions can increase the occurrence of other heart disease risk factors. Women who have preeclampsia or hypertension during pregnancy are at a much higher risk of developing high blood pressure or suffering from a stroke as they age, and women who had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  3. The Effects of Smoking Can Be Worse For Women
    While you may be aware of smoking's many harmful long-term implications, you may not be aware that the consequences for women can be much worse. In general, smoking causes blood to thicken, increasing the risk of blood clots and damage to blood vessel walls. Female smokers' risk of suffering a heart attack is twice that of men who light up. While it's unclear why women are affected more, the good news is that heart attack risk drops dramatically within the first year a person quits smoking.

It might seem like the deck is stacked against you when it comes to your heart's future, but in fact, you hold the trump card — knowledge. Knowing your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index can reveal a lot about the health of your heart and the risk factors you may be able to reduce by exercising regularly and eating a heart-healthy diet. Interested in learning more about the risk factors that might be putting you at risk for heart disease? Take our free heart health assessment to receive a personalized analysis of your heart disease risk.

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Why Choose Us?

Lutheran Health Network provides specialty cardiovascular care for an extensive variety of conditions and concerns ranging from heart attacks, heart failure and irregular heartbeats to valve replacement surgery, and ventricular assist device implantation. Cardiovascular services is one of our key focuses for innovation and research and work with some of the largest and most innovative institutions in the United States. We believe heart health education is a critical component to long-term success. Throughout the entire patient care journey, our dedicated care team is committed to providing innovative treatment solutions while teaching patients about the importance of making lifestyle changes for a more successful outcome.

Our Cardiac and Vascular Services Include:

  • Advanced diagnostics to evaluate coronary artery disease
  • Diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterizations
  • Advanced heart failure treatment in a dedicated inpatient unit
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation
  • Management of complex heart rhythm disorders
  • Diagnostic and interventional procedures to treat peripheral vascular disease
  • Electrophysiology studies and ablation treatments
  • Advanced device therapies for pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) placement
  • Minimally invasive surgery for heart and blood vessel disorders
  • Bypass, valve replacement, carotid and other surgical procedures
  • Blood clot treatment with thrombectomies or inferior vena cava (IVC) filters
  • Fluid overflow therapy

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking special precautions to keep our offices and other care environments safe for every patient.

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