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?

As the first hospital in Arkansas to provide open-heart surgery, Northwest Medical Center - Springdale, along with its sister hospital Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville, have offered leading edge cardiac services for many years. Additionally, Northwest Medical Center - Springdale was the first hospital in Northwest Arkansas to achieve Cycle IV Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI through the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). Northwest Medical Center - Bentonville achieved the same accreditation, and both hospitals maintain this accreditation today (now cycle V) to show Northwest Health's continued commitment to your heart.

Northwest Health is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a select group of independent health systems that work closely with Mayo Clinic to improve the delivery of health care and better serve their patients and their communities. Patients experience the confidence of being able to access world-leading medical expertise through their trusted Northwest Health doctor, with the comfort and convenience of staying close to home.

From prevention to diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, numerous services are available throughout our five-hospital network.

Our Services Include:

  • Diagnostic and imaging technology to find heart disease early, when it's most treatable
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Open-heart surgeries including coronary bypass and valve repair
  • Cardiac Defibrillator and Biventricular Pacemaker Insertion
  • Carotid Stenting
  • Venous Stenting
  • Comprehensive heart failure care
  • Specialized treatment for heart rhythm disorders (Atrial Fibrillation)
  • Cardiac rehabilitation that combines education, support and exercise therapy

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