Heart Health After 40: 9 Things Women Should Know

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Heart Health After 40: 9 Things Women Should Know | When we think about heart health, we often assume it applies to people in their 60s and 70s, with a heavy focus on men but this isn't true! The risk of heart disease increases for women after menopause, and prevention is key. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other forms of heart disease are more common in women than you may know, and awareness is so important. Click for everything you need to know about heart health after 40.

It’s time to get serious about heart health. Although you’re still young in your forties, it’s never too early to start thinking about your heart. Your risk of heart disease increases after menopause, and prevention is key. Much of the information out there on heart conditions and heart attacks pertains to men, so it’s so important to know your risks as a woman. Early diagnosis of a heart condition is the best way to get on top of it and reduce your risk of serious heart disease or a heart attack. Here’s what you need to know about heart health after 40.

Heart Health After 40

1. Common Types of Heart Conditions in Women

  • Coronary artery disease (coronary heart disease): this is the most common type of heart disease- and leading cause of death for women. It’s caused by plaque in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. After menopause, women are at a higher risk of coronary artery disease due to hormonal changes.
  • Arrhythmia: this condition is when your heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way.
  • Coronary microvascular disease: chest pain from spasms in the smallest arteries of the heart that pinch off blood flow. It typically happens during rest or routine activities. It’s a serious condition that increases your risk of a heart attack or other heart diseases.

2. Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
The symptoms for a heart attack are different for women than they are for men. The most common heart attack symptom is the same as it is in men- some sort of chest pain, pressure or discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes. However, in women, chest pain is not always severe or even the most noticeable symptom. Women often describe heart attack pain as pressure or tightness. Women are more likely to have other heart attack symptoms including:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or upper belly discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Heartburn

3. The Heart and High Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. High cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually these deposits grow, making it hard for enough blood to flow through your arteries. High cholesterol can be inherited, but it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol.

4. The Heart and High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can damage your arteries by making them less elastic. This decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and can lead to heart disease. High blood pressure can lead to some conditions in women more often than men such as poor heart function, enlarged heart, stiffness of the arteries, and chronic kidney disease. Women are more likely to have undiagnosed high blood pressure and it tends to be less well controlled even when diagnosed.

5. The Heart and Stress and Genetics
Unless you enter menopause in your forties, your risk of heart disease generally remains low in this decade, however, stress and genetics can put you at a higher risk. If you have family to care for, parents to look after, a stressful job, or relationship issues, your health can easily slip. Stress can do a number on your heart, causing higher levels of inflammation that contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries. This can lead to problems such as coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack. And if your family has a history of heart disease, your chances of developing it is higher.

6. Get Yearly Checkups
One of the most important things to do for your heart health is keep a close tab on your numbers. Make sure to get yearly checkups so you can track important numbers like blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, body mass index, and cholesterol. If your LDL “bad” cholesterol, blood pressure, or other risk factors aren’t where they should be, you can work with your doctor to take steps to improve them. They may give you medication to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol if you need it.

7. Start (or Continue) Exercising
Regular exercise throughout your life is one of the best ways to prevent a heart condition, but it’s never too late to start. If you were “too busy” to exercise throughout your thirties, try getting back to a good exercise routine to reduce your risk of plaque formation. As women age, our arteries and heart can stiffen, which can add to increased blood pressure, but consistent exercise can keep your arteries more flexible and lower your blood pressure. A combination of aerobic exercise (jogging, cycling, swimming) with resistance training (weight lifting) is very beneficial for the heart.

8. Follow a Heart Healthy Diet
Apart from exercise, your diet is the other most important factor for heart health. The first thing you want to do is cut down problematic foods to a minimum, if not altogether. This includes fast, fried, and processed foods, refined carbs and sugar, candy, baked goods and pastries, and sugary drinks. Fill your diet with heart-healthy foods like leafy green vegetables, whole grains, berries, avocados, fatty fish, beans, chia and flax seeds, and lean protein.

9. Advocate for Yourself
Women are more likely than men to have “silent” heart disease, meaning they don’t have symptoms. Health care providers may not recognize heart disease in women because women’s symptoms may be different from men’s. A delay in diagnosis could mean a delay in medical care that could help prevent serious problems. This is why it’s so important to advocate for regular testing and to learn as much as you can about heart disease in women. If you notice symptoms or know you’re at a higher risk of heart disease due to genetics, make sure to speak up to your health care professional.

Heart health is so important at every age, especially as you get older. We hope you found this information helpful!

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Heart Health After 40: 9 Things Women Should Know | When we think about heart health, we often assume it applies to people in their 60s and 70s, with a heavy focus on men but this isn't true! The risk of heart disease increases for women after menopause, and prevention is key. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other forms of heart disease are more common in women than you may know, and awareness is so important. Click for everything you need to know about heart health after 40.

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