The bad news: “From age 40, the average woman has a 1 in 5 change of developing heart failure,” warns Heart Healthy Women webpage.
The good news: Perimenopausal and menopausal women may be getting a little better in eliminating risk factors that can harm heart health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics survey found that approximately 47 percent or American adults had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease from a list that includes uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol or current smoking. The researchers found that men were more likely than women to have at least one of these risk factors. And while uncontrolled high blood pressure and uncontrolled high LDL cholesterol declined during this period, there wasn’t a significant change in the percentage of adults who smoked.
Over the decade spanning 1999-2000 through 2009-2010, researchers found among women, only those who were age 60 and older showed a decrease in the number of risk factors during this 12-year period; the percentage of these women dropped from 78.3 percent in 1999-2000 to 53.9 percent in 2009-2010. However, 53.9 percent of women who were age 60 and over had at least one of the three CVD risk factors when compared with women between the ages of 40-59 (40.5 percent) and 20-39 (34.4%).
Furthermore, the researchers found a decrease in the percentage of non-Hispanic white and Mexican-American adults who had at least one of these risk factors. However, non-Hispanic black adults did not experience a similar decrease.
The researchers also found that the percentage of adults with at least one of the three risk factors for cardiovascular disease decreased in all income groups over the 12-year period. In 2009-2010, adults with lower incomes were more likely to have at least one of the risk factors (60.8 percent) as compared to 47.2 percent of adults with middle incomes and 37.9 percent of adults with higher-incomes.
- Lowering high blood pressure – The Mayo Clinic notes that 10 lifestyle changes can potentially help you lower blood pressure without medication. These include losing extra weight and keeping a slim waistline, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, reducing sodium intake, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco products and secondhand smoke, limiting caffeine, reducing stress, monitoring blood pressure at home and with a doctor, and getting support from family and friends.
- Controlling LDL cholesterol – You can do this through medications. In addition, a balanced diet serves as the foundation of any cholesterol-lowering effort, according to U.S. News and World Report. Aim to eat lots of vegetables, fish, legumes, whole grains and fruits while limiting your consumption of red meat, eggs and cheese. Also try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least five days a week. Few supplements work, although U.S. News and World Report suggests that niacin, plant sterols and soluble fiber supplements may be beneficial in helping lower LDL levels.
- Stop smoking. If you are thinking about taking this step, you can get help from smokefree.gov. The site offers assistance to support your immediate needs while quitting as well as long-term needs as a nonsmoker. The site offers a step-by-step quit smoking guide, information about topics related to smoking and quitting, an interactive U.S. map that highlights smoking information in your state, LifeHelp (an instant messaging service by the National Cancer Institute), the National Cancer Institute’s telephone quitline, local and state telephone quitline and publications that you can download, print or order.