I am a runner. I try to eat healthy (for the most part!). I don't smoke and I'm relatively young still. I try to be pro-active about my health. But there are things pointed out in this article that made me take note and made me realize that I am not bullet proof. Like 38,000 US women under the age of 50 have heart attacks each year. As much as heart health has always seemed like a "someday I'll learn more about that" thing, it seems like now is a good time to know the warning signs and take charge.
1. Even Thin Women Can be at Risk
"Yes, being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for heart disease. But "there are plenty of women walking around who are thin and have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol," notes Dr. Goldberg. Sometimes it boils down to genetics—if high cholesterol or hypertension runs in your family, you’ll be more susceptible, too. You can also have a normal body mass index (BMI) but still have high amounts of visceral fat—the body fat stored deep within your abdomen that nestles around your liver, pancreas and intestines."
2. Being Lonely and Depressed Isn't Great for Your Heart
"This just in: Middle-aged women with depression are at higher risk of heart disease, suggests a study presented in October at the North American Menopause Society’s annual meeting. Loneliness and social isolation are also linked to a 29 percent greater risk of a heart attack, according to a review of research published last April in the medical journal Heart. There are a few theories as to why. Both conditions increase levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can raise blood pressure and inflammation, points out Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women’s heart health at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. It may also be that people who are lonely and/or depressed are less likely to do things to look after themselves, like eat well, exercise, and take their medications, and more likely to smoke and drink excessive alcohol."
3. Your Health During Pregnancy is an Important Clue
"Did you have high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes during pregnancy? Even if symptoms disappeared post-delivery, you’re still at greater risk of heart disease. According to a study published last June in the journal Hypertension, pregnant women who experience even small increases in blood pressure during pregnancy may be at high risk of developing metabolic syndrome after giving birth."
4. Sleep Matters for Your Heart Health
"Sleep deprivation raises levels of cortisol and inflammatory cytokines, both of which promote the development of heart disease by increasing blood sugar levels and blood pressure, explains Dr. Goldberg. In fact, people who get five or fewer hours of sleep a night have 50 percent more calcium in their coronary arteries—an early marker of heart disease—than those who clock seven hours of slumber a night, according to a 2015 Korean study. Too much sleep may be a problem, too. The study found that folks who snoozed nine or more hours a night had 72 percent more coronary calcium than those who slept seven hours.
It’s not just how much you sleep—it’s also how well you sleep. The same Korean study revealed that people who reported poor sleep quality had about 20 percent more calcium in their arteries than those who snoozed well."
"About 45 percent of heart attacks have such mild symptoms that they go unnoticed, according to a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center study published last May. Researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly 9,500 middle-aged Americans—more than half of them women. They discovered that, over an average of nine years, while 386 patients had heart attacks with clinical symptoms, 317 had “silent” heart attacks, meaning the heart attacks were diagnosed after the fact, with tests like electrocardiograms, but weren’t acknowledged by the people themselves.
The take-home message? If you have risk factors (such as a family history of heart attack at a young age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes) and experience subtle, vague symptoms like shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain, nausea or fatigue, get checked out."
6. The Fitter You are in Your 40's the Better
"Those in the best shape in the second half of their fifth decade were 37 percent less likely to suffer a stroke after age 65 than those in the worst, per a University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center study published last June. "Exercise is one of the best things you can do to prevent and combat cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Kwon. "People with coronary artery disease who exercise actually develop tiny bypass channels to get around the blockages that narrow their arteries."
And it’s never too late to start. Johns Hopkins research found that inactive folks who increased their physical activity after age 45 to reach 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week reduced their risk of heart failure by 22 percent."
Here's the link to the original article on Health.com - enjoy and get educated!