Although the treatment of cardiovascular disease between men and women differs, the prevention of CVD does not. One of the best ways to avoid the debate is to prevent it from happening in the first place. According to the American Heart Association, the six most significant independent risk factors for heart disease that one can change or control are “Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.”
Currently about 11% of the women worldwide are smokers, and although this seems like a relatively small percentage, it is a significant number that is only increasing as people begin smoking at younger and younger ages. The effects of smoking on heart disease are significant. The risk of a heart attack increases by 2 or 3 times with even a light smoking habit of 1-4 cigarettes a day. And although many believe that the greatest correlation between smoking and death is due to lung cancer about 1.5 times more women die from heart disease due to smoking. Smoking not only increases blood pressure, but also increases the chances of a blood clot. These dangers can be reversed if the smoking habit ceases. Studies show that even one year after quitting, the risk of heart disease decreases by 50%, and after about 15 years, the risk can be reduced to that of a non-smoker.
High blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance (lipid) that is essential for certain bodily functions. However, there are different types of cholesterol, some of which are better for the body than others. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol that helps move the cholesterol through the arteries so that it can be disposed of. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol that sticks to artery walls and causes an accumulation of plaque that can lead to blockage. Triglycerides are the third type of cholesterol that in high amounts can also become dangerous. To help prevent the risk of plaque buildup, which can lead to a heart attack, one should eat responsibly. Much of the LDL that causes heart risks is found in saturated and trans fats, which are found in such foods as meat, butter, and whole milk. A diet that watches the intake of these fats can help prevent heart disease.
High Blood Pressure.
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is often associated with a patient’s heart being overworked due to a narrowing of the arteries. The heart needs to work harder to provide sufficient amounts of blood to the body, and so the muscles pumps harder, causing greater amounts of pressure and stress on the heart and arteries. The increase in work often causes hypertrophy, or enlargement, of the heart, which, if not treated, can cause a weakening of the heart so that the efficacy of its pumping decreases significantly. To lower ones blood pressure, several actions can be take. First, a healthy diet with limited alcohol and salt intake are essential. Second, a regular exercise routine can produce great benefits. Also, a person’s smoking habit and stress management are of importance.
In the United States alone, about 250,000 deaths are due to physical inactivity. Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common ways these people die. Even 30 minutes of light-moderate activity, such as gardening and going for a walk can have benefits and lower the risk of a heart attack. More vigorous activities like running, swimming, or bicycling can improve heart fitness even more. A strengthened heart can help it work more efficiently, putting less stress on it. In addition, physical activity can have a positive effect on other heart disease associated risks like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
People that are overweight can cause a lot of strain on the heart. The extra weight forces the heart to work harder, making it less effective at pumping out blood to through the arteries. In addition, too much weight can lead to an increase in blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and create a higher risk of diabetes. A carefully regulated diet with a limited amount of fat and alcohol intake along with a regular exercise regimen can help with weight loss.
When carbohydrates enter the body, they are broken down into glucose (sugar), which is absorbed into the blood. Upon absorption, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which allows the glucose to be absorbed into the body’s tissues and cells. Diabetes results when the body is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin or does not respond to the insulin produced. As a result, there is a glucose buildup in the body. This buildup can cause an increase in high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol, and obesity, which all contribute to cardiovascular disease. A controlled diet, regular exercise, and blood glucose testing, as well as oral medication and insulin injections can help patients with diabetes.
N.B. For more detailed information about risk factors and prevention of cardiovascular disease, check out the American Heart Association and Heart Healthy Women websites under the links menu.
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