‘One-size-fits-all approach’ might not prevent heart disease in women

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Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women?

However, a new report from the American Heart Association suggests that healthcare teams and researchers need to take into account more factors when evaluating heart disease risk in women.

The report emphasizes that non-biological factors, such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sex-specific factors, can affect each woman’s level of risk, and research tools may not be set up to understand important differences among women of varied backgrounds.

A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful when customizing cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment strategies for women.

For example, traditional heart disease risk factors like Type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, family history, smoking status, physical activity level, diet, and weight don’t take into account sex-specific biological factors, medications, and conditions that are more common among women than men.

Such factors include conditions related to pregnancy, menstrual cycle history, types of birth control or hormone replacement therapy used, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Women are also more likely than men to develop autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, which are associated with faster buildup of plaque in the arteries and worse outcomes after heart attacks and strokes.

And women are more likely to have depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, which are associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Social factors, known as social determinants of health, also play a significant role in heart disease risk.

These factors include education, economic stability, neighborhood safety, and access to quality health care.

The report emphasizes the importance of including social determinants of health in risk assessment and working with women on shared decisions about cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment.

The report also highlights known differences among racial and ethnic groups.

For example, non-Hispanic Black women in the U.S. have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure in the world, and they are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and obesity or extreme obesity.

Hispanic women have a higher rate of obesity compared with Hispanic men, and their cardiovascular disease death rates are 15% to 20% lower than among non-Hispanic white women.

The report calls for more research to address gaps in knowledge about risk factors among women, including collecting data specific to subgroups of each race and ethnicity.

It also suggests that cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines could be strengthened by urging culturally specific lifestyle recommendations.

In conclusion, the report urges healthcare teams and researchers to consider the complex interplay of sex, race, ethnicity, and social factors in a woman’s risk of becoming sick or dying from heart disease.

By taking a more personalized approach to heart disease prevention and treatment, we can improve health outcomes for all women.

How women can protect heart health

Protecting heart health is important for everyone, but as the leading cause of death in women, it’s especially crucial for women to take steps to protect their heart health.

Here are some ways women can protect their heart health:

Get regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help identify risk factors and potential problems before they become more serious.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease. Women can maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying physically active.

Quit smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of heart disease. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things women can do for their heart health.

Be physically active: Regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve overall health. Women should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Eat a heart-healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help protect the heart. Women should limit their intake of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Manage stress: Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease. Women can manage stress by getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, and making time for hobbies and activities they enjoy.

Manage other health conditions: Women with conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure should work with their healthcare provider to manage these conditions and reduce their risk of heart disease.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about how to remove plaques that cause heart attacks, and results showing a new way to prevent heart attacks, and strokes.

The study was published in Circulation.

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