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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Meet the Women on our Heart Care Team

Wendy Hart, DNP, APRN

Northwest Cardiology - Bentonville
2900 Medical Center Pkwy. | Suite 240B
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 553-2200

Hannah Lamm, APRN

Northwest Cardiology - Bentonville
2900 Medical Center Pkwy. | Suite 240B
Bentonville, AR 72712
(479) 553-2200

For a complete list cardiologists at Northwest Health, please visit https://www.nw-physicians.com/cardiology.

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Why Choose Us?

Our physicians and providers are proud to be affiliated with Northwest Health, the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. With five hospitals, Northwest Health has three accredited Chest Pain Centers - in Bentonville, Siloam Springs and Springdale.

Northwest Medical Center - Springdale was the first hospital in Northwest Arkansas to provide open-heart surgery and achieve Cycle IV Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI through ACC Accreditation Services (American College of Cardiology). Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville also earned the same accreditation, and both hospitals maintain this accreditation today (now cycle V) to show Northwest Health's continued commitment to providing high quality care for your heart when you need it most.

Northwest Medical Center - Springdale was also among the first 50 hospitals nationwide chosen to participate in a new study to identify the best treatment for people who experience cardiogenic shock following a heart attack (also called acute myocardial infarction - cardiogenic shock, or AMI-CS). Called the National Cardiogenic Shock Initiative (NCSI), this multicenter study assessed the feasibility of whether outcomes in cardiogenic shock can be improved by using standardized best practices such as inserting a special heart pump to protect patients during percutaneous coronary interventions.

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 andbiventricular pacemaker insertion
  • Carotid stenting
  • Venous stenting
  • Heart failure care
  • Specialized treatment for heart rhythm disorders (atrial fibrillation)
  • Cardiac rehabilitation that combines education, support and exercise therapy

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