"Breast cancer is often believed to be the number one cause of death and disability in women. In reality, it is cardiovascular disease. The number of cases of cardiovascular disease is high… and continuing to rise. But by understanding more about the causes and impacts of cardiovascular disease, you can take steps to reduce your risk"
The term ‘cardiovascular disease’ actually covers a broad range of disorders, including coronary artery disease, which is a blockage or spasm of the arteries bringing blood to your heart. This prevents the heart from being properly nourished and you may experience symptoms like chest pain/heaviness, or shortness of breath. We call this angina. If left unchecked, it can cause a heart attack.
More and more women – particularly younger women – have high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes. This is leading to an increase in cardiovascular disease, and we are seeing it in younger as well as older women. The trend is expected to continue. By understanding the different risk factors, you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting cardiovascular disease. And, the sooner you act, the better.
There is another important piece of the puzzle that women need to be aware of. Researchers have recently discovered that a woman’s reproductive experiences throughout her life (including menstruation, pregnancy, any breast cancer treatments, and menopause) can affect her chances of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Awareness of this can help to determine your individual risk.
The link between reproductive factors and cardiovascular disease
The impact of menstruation: If a woman begins her menstrual periods when she is very young or has a history of absent or irregular menstrual cycles (if she has polycystic ovary syndrome, for example) then this may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.
The impact of pregnancy complications: Complications during pregnancy or soon after delivery, including high blood pressure, can increase the chances of developing heart disease.
The impact of treatment for Breast Cancer: A woman who has undergone breast cancer treatment may have sustained damage to her heart due to certain chemotherapy, radiation, and estrogen-lowering medications. This can increase the risk of developing heart failure and blockages of the coronary arteries.
The impact of menopause: If menopause happens at a particularly early age (i.e. below the age of 45) or at an age that is considered premature (i.e. below the age of 40), this can speed up the possible development of cardiovascular disease. However, menopause at the average age of 51 may lead to a heightened risk of developing the disease. Unless there is a good reason not to, the use of bio-identical menopausal hormone therapy, particularly for women with premature and early menopause, is recommended to reduce the risks of heart disease.
Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
There are positive steps that you can take to prevent most cardiovascular events—heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke. And, while it’s true that there a few exceptions, in most cases if you can identify the risk factors early on and take proactive steps, you can avoid developing cardiovascular disease.
It’s about making positive lifestyle choices to maintain good cardiovascular health.
The top five most important lifestyle factors are:
Doing regular physical activity
Getting enough sleep.
Maintaining a healthy weight.
If you incorporate these into your day-to-day life, the potential benefits are enormous.
One research study demonstrated you could increase your life expectancy by as much as 14 years. And it’s not just your cardiovascular health that will improve. Blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol will all see a positive impact – and, as each of these factors is also associated with a greater chance of developing cardiovascular problems in the future, your heart health will benefit.
Reference : Australian Menopause Society