Heart disease should be a concern for every American. According to The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. However, among all U.S. women who die each year, one in four dies of heart disease. In fact, even though men and women both suffer heart attacks, more women die from them than men. Why is heart disease such an issue for women? What can you do to ensure a healthy heart? Read on to find out. 

Women at Risk

The hard truth about women and heart disease is that it is the number one killer of women in the U.S. What's more is that of those who survive a heart attack, only 23 percent make a full recovery. The major risk factors associated with heart disease are:

  • family history;
  • age;
  • smoking;
  • physical inactivity;
  • high blood pressure;
  • diabetes
  • overweight and obesity.

These factors affect men and women alike. However, there are factors that are specific to only women. Menopausal hormone therapy, though once thought to ward off the effects of heart disease, has been found to pose a serious threat to overall heart health. The Women's Health Initiative (WHI) found that both estrogen-plus-progestin therapy and estrogen-alone therapy increased a woman's risk of heart attack and stroke.

Birth control has also been found to cause problems when it came to heart disease. Studies have shown that women who use oral contraceptives are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who do not. This is due primarily because blood clots are more likely to form in the blood vessels when higher doses of hormones are present. 

Preventing Heart Trouble

If you eat well, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking, your heart will thank you. Although these steps seem easy enough, only 3 percent of Americans practice all four. The following are tips on how you can lead a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a healthy heart.

  • Healthy eating. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains along with lean protein, fish, beans, and nuts. Try to eliminate empty calories, trans fats, and saturated fat while including omega-3 fats. Keep track of your diet either with a friend or in a journal. This way you can see how well you've done over a given period of time.
  • Exercise. Going to a gym everyday can be tedious, time consuming, and expensive; yet, you know physical activity directly reduces the risk of heart problems. What do you do? Walking or light jogging for a half an hour a few days a week can greatly improve your heart health. Other weight bearing exercises such as light weight lifting (pursing you own 2 and 5 pound weights are cheap and will last you a lifetime), yoga, and hiking are also great ways to get you moving.
  • Be a quitter. Quitting a habit like cigarette smoking sounds daunting, but the truth is that 78 percent of those who quit do so using the cold turkey method. Set a date, grab a support partner, and plan for a fresh, smoke-free start. There is no greater motivation to quit than your own health. Aside from the risk of lung cancer, women who smoke are two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmoking women according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Heart disease is a serious issue in the United States, and this is especially true for women. Though the risk may be high due to your family history, age, or lifestyle choices, hope for heart health should never be lost. Remember, a few changes in your day-to-day can make a world of difference. Start now on a new path to a heart healthy lifestyle.