Heart disease may be the number-one killer of women across the country, according to the CDC, but we’re clearly not taking the threat very seriously. According to a new national survey conducted by Orlando Health, the majority of American women are unaware of the age at which they should begin heart screenings. The American Heart Association recommends beginning regular cardiovascular screenings at the age of 20, but 60 percent of women polled didn’t think screenings were necessary until the age of 30. That decade of waiting could have a significant impact on heart health.
Carolina Demori, MD, a cardiologist with the Women’s Cardiac Center at the Orlando Health Institute, says that women can be begin developing atherosclerosis, plaque in their arteries, in their teens and early 20s. And in fact, with out obesity epidemic, this phenomenon is happening earlier and earlier. Regular screenings are vital when it comes to understanding risk factors and making appropriate life changes as early as possible.
According to the survey, which polled more than 1,000 women throughout the United States, the average age women believe they should begin heart screenings is 41. Only 8 percent of women knew that screenings should begin at some point in their 20s.
The American Heart Association has specific recommendations for key screenings tests that can help optimize cardiovascular health. Women should be working with their doctors to monitor blood pressure, body weight, and body mass index (BMI), blood glucose levels, and both good and bad cholesterol levels. Those with a history of heart disease in their family may need to increase the frequency of testing and expand the types of tests they undergo. (These advanced tests can also help detect silent symptoms of heart disease.)
Dr. Demori warns that women shouldn’t wait until they’re older to begin heart screenings, and to pay attention to risk factors. Beginning your screening at the correct age can help your doctor put in place preventive measures before it’s too late. Symptoms of heart disease are vastly different in women than men, sciencedaily.com reports, and knowing what to look for could potentially save your life.
Along with following the recommendations of your health professionals and undergoing regular screenings, Dr. Demori says that women can further prevent heart disease by doing 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. The American Heart Association suggests breaking up the potential monotony of working out with a variety of exercises including yoga, walking, or aerobics. Here are 15 additional ways you can prevent heart disease.