Weight gain is also a factor that may play a role in postmenopausal risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight often becomes difficult after your body experiences a change in hormone levels. Extra mass can take a toll on the body causing physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, all risk factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Detecting heart disease in women can be difficult. Many women are unaware that symptoms of the disease may differ from those of men. Although women often experience chest discomfort when presenting with a heart attack, they commonly have other, more subtle symptoms, including fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, jaw pain and general discomfort in the chest and abdominal area.
“In some women, plaque can build in the smallest blood vessels called the microvascular circulation. These blockages do not show up in an angiogram,” says Rigolin. “In these cases, we often use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with medication to visualize blood flow within the small blood vessels when other standard tests do not provide us answers.”
Women, especially those who are menopausal can reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
“If you are a smoker, quit immediately and avoid second hand smoke. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercise at least three times per week to maintain a healthy body weight,” says Rigolin.
Rigolin also recommends visiting your health care provider at least once per year to have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked.
Experts at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute are dedicated to educating people about the risks of heart disease and regularly offer educational opportunities. This week the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute will host a heart symposium titled Heart Health-What Smart Women Need to Know, and offer a new podcast discussing risk factors for heart disease led by Vera Rigolin, MD.
For more information about the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, visit www.heart.nmh.org.
Media Relations Associate