According to the American Heart Association, 80-percent of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented. Yet, heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women in the United States – in 2009, one in every four women died from heart disease according to the Center for Disease Control. With early detection, women have the ability to pursue proper screenings to see if they are at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Discuss with your physician the option to have a Well-Woman Visit. This is a visit where your physician will opt for a number of assessments to screen your potential for developing heart disease. Here are the components that you can discuss with your physician and why they could be contributing factors to potentially develop heart disease.
Assessing Your Heart’s Health
Cholesterol is a potential contributing factor that could increase your risk for heart disease. Cholesterol is essential to the body in that it’s job is to build cells and produce hormones. Overtime, unhealthy eating habits can begin to build up and narrow the walls of arteries, which transport blood throughout the body. This can slow the blood flow of your body and potentially become fatal. By opting to get your cholesterol checked through a simple blood test, your physician can determine if there are abnormalities in your body’s amount of LDL cholesterol. Early detection for those with high LDL cholesterol could help you make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. For those who already have heart disease, lowering your cholesterol may reduce your chances of a heart attack, which could potentially be fatal.
Blood Pressure Screening
High Blood Pressure is a key risk factor for developing heart disease. To determine your blood pressure, your physician will measure when the heart muscle contracts (systolic) and when the heart is resting between beats and refilling with blood (diastolic). A normal reading will be less than 120/80. However, you doctor may measure it several times and determine if you have abnormal blood pressure by monitoring it over a period of time. Exercising, eating healthy, and reducing your sodium intake are a few ways to lower your blood pressure.
Body Mass Index
Your physician can determine your Body Mass Index in which your height and weight is considered to calculate an estimation for body fat. This will help determine risk factors for not only heart disease but other diseases as well.
Your doctor should weigh you during your visit. Knowing whether or not you are overweight, clinically obese, or at an optimal weight will help you determine your risk for heart disease. For those who are overweight or clinically obese, your chances of having high cholesterol are greater as well as your chance for developing other diseases such as diabetes. Discuss a plan for weight loss and decide on healthy options to help you shed excess pounds to lower cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease. This may include food options that have no cholesterol, no processed sugars, are low in saturated fats, and are low in trans fats.
Giving you physician a detailed family history could help to determine if you are more at risk for many diseases. Knowing if high cholesterol and heart disease runs in the family will allow your doctor to monitor certain symptoms or risks more closely to help flag potential factors for developing heart disease.
Level of Activity
Discussing your level of exercise will help you determine if you are more or less at risk for developing heart disease. It is recommended that those who are able should exercise for 30 minutes a day. Exercising has been known to lower cholesterol and decrease stress which could also keep you at a lower risk for heart disease.
Age and Gender
Your cholesterol increases as you age, for women in particular. Pre-menopause their LDL cholesterol tends to be lower than post-menopause, increasing their risk for heart disease.
Smoking is a high risk factor for developing heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder, and digestive organs. Tobacco smoke, often made with chemicals, damages the walls of your arteries, increasing your risk for plaque to build in arteries which can then lead to the coronary arteries. Discussing a plan, under physician supervision or recommendation will help you quit long-term.