Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in women. But is this preventable? Some experts say it is; how should your doctor be guiding you on this?

Reuters reports on a new study showing that heart disease is preventable in women. How can they do this? Experts say that women can do this simply by leading a healthy lifestyle in their younger years.

How was the study conducted?

American researchers followed thousands of women when they were in their 20s and 30s. They found those with healthy diet and exercise habits, which did not smoke, were also 66 percent less likely to have any heart disease factors. These factors include diabetes or hypertension by the time they were in their forties and fifties.

What do these results mean?

The findings show that over 70 percent of heart attacks in younger women could possibly be prevented by alterations in lifestyle, according to the authors.

Ms. Chomistek, who led the study, told Reuters,

“As somebody who is currently in her 30s, I think a lot of us think that we are invincible at this point and we don't have to worry about things like heart attacks until we get old. I think this study shows that we should be thinking about things like this early on. Most research on heart disease risk factors has focused on older people because they’re typically the ones who have heart attacks. There's not a whole lot of information out there for younger people.”

The researchers found that the rates of death from heart attacks among older people have been decreasing on average over the past 40 years. But what shocked researchers was the fact that death rates among younger women have actually increased during that time period.

The researchers scrutinized data from The Nurses’ Health Study II, which includes survey responses for more than 70,000 women. These women were between the ages of 25 and 42 years old in 1991. The study team tracked the women until 2011. They looked for six healthy habits: not smoking, watching less than seven hours of TV per week, drinking one or less alcoholic beverage per day, getting at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a normal body weight.

CBS explains the results,

“At the end of 20 years, a total of 456 women had heart attacks. Almost 32,000 women were diagnosed with one or more cardiovascular disease risk factors, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high levels of cholesterol. The average age of a heart disease diagnosis was 50 years old, and the average age for diagnosis with a cardiovascular risk factor was about 47 years old. The researchers found that compared to women with none of the healthy lifestyle habits; women who had all six healthy habits were 92 percent less likely to have a heart attack. After accounting for the other healthy habits, the hours of television women watched were not linked to their heart disease risk.”

Dr. Kelly, a cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, commented on the study. She told Reuters, it is a landmark study because it not only focuses on women, but also young women in particular who have not been included much in this research in the past. She also brought attention to the fact that awareness about women and heart disease is fairly new. The American Heart Association’s ‘Go Red for Women” campaign did not begin until 2001 or 2002.

Gerry Oginski
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