The risk for heart-related death is increasing in young adults ages 35 to 54, and the numbers are even more alarming for younger women. It is the number-one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, yet every year since 1984 more women have died of cardiovascular health problems than men, according to the American Heart Association.
"Although there has been a general decline in deaths caused by heart disease, the last decade has seen a steady increase among younger women ages 35 to 44. Women account for more than 50 percent of deaths due to heart disease," says Dr. Holly Andersen, the director of education and outreach for the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Andersen offers the following advice to women the following advice on how to stay healthy, know their risk factors, and get the best medical treatments to take better care of their hearts.
* Enjoy yourself. Eat right, attempt to get a good night's sleep, practice stress reduction, and have some fun -- all have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
* Know the warning signs of an attack. Women may not always experience the typical crushing chest pain that is associated with a heart attack. Many women have symptoms that include neck, shoulder and abdominal pain; some may also have nausea, vomiting, fatigue and shortness of breath, along with chest pain.
* Test for the silent attack. Some women feel no pain at all and experience what is known as a "silent heart attack." Silent heart attacks lead to long-term shortage of blood and oxygen flow to the heart. If you are a post-menopausal woman and have at least three risk factors for heart disease you should ask your doctor for a cardiac stress test to determine if you have experienced this type of attack and permanent damage.
* Know your risk factors. Your risk of having a heart attack greatly increases if you are obese/overweight, a smoker, have high cholesterol and/or diabetes. There are also several risk factors that are of particular importance to women:
o Smoking greatly increases the risk of heart attack for women under the age of 45. The combination of smoking and birth control pills increases a woman's risk by at least 20-fold.