What do we know about women’s heart disease risk?

Every year, over half a million American women die from cardiovascular disease, accounting for more than 54%, over half, of all female deaths!  42 million women in the US are living with heart disease now. Even more frightening, new studies reveal women receive less medical treatment despite having more cardiac symptoms and poorer health than men.

 Heart disease for women is often linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight issues or too little exercise. It is also clearly hormone-related. There is no time that a woman’s risk for heart disease is higher than menopause. Risk for heart disease rises as women approach menopause and continues to rise with age. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of new, prophylactic, hormone replacement therapy prescriptions were written this year by doctors trying to protect menopausal women from heart disease.

Yet, the use of hormone replacement therapy or ERT to protect against heart disease is highly debatable. There is also no conclusive evidence that estrogen protects against heart disease.

In fact, one review presented at the International Meeting on Atherosclerosis in Paris concludes that the heart protective benefits attributed to estrogen may result from population selection bias or even changes towards healthier lifestyles during the course of the studies.

In addition, new studies find hormone replacement therapy does not prevent heart attack or death for women who already have the disease.

I don’t think hormone replacement therapy, with its links to uterine and breast cancer, should even be considered as a long-term preventive for heart disease. I think there are better solutions for preventing heart disease naturally that don’t carry these risks.

If you’re thinking about beginning hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease, here are new facts you need to know.

•Many Hormone Replacement drugs actually suppress folic acid, contributing to high homocysteine levels, a known risk factor for heart disease.

•Tests with some estrogen contraceptive pills actually increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and serious blood clotting problems.

 • Some reports suggest that SERMs  (selective estrogen receptor modulators) may protect against heart disease.  SERM drugs should not be taken by women with a history of congestive heart failure. SERMs may increase risk of serious blood clots in the legs, lungs or eyes, particularly if you’re sedentary for long periods of time.

 What Are The Biggest Heart Problems For Women?

 A heart attack is especially serious for a woman. Statistics show that a woman is 50% MORE likely to die from a heart attack than a man!  Women have heart attacks at older ages when they are in poorer health than men. In addition, female arteries are less able to compensate for the partial death of heart muscle caused by a heart attack, so a second heart attack is even more dangerous for women.  Heart attack symptoms are also different- Women are less likely to have intense chest pains during a heart attack. (This is why researchers believe they are more reluctant to seek treatment.) Heart attack symptoms women should watch for include shortness of breath, fatigue, even back pain.

Congestive Heart Failure is another big problem for menopausal women. Over two million women alive today have CHF. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to efficiently pump blood. In people with CHF, risk for sudden cardiac death is 6-9 times higher than the general population! High iron stores after menopause may put a women at risk.  Symptoms to watch for include extreme fatigue and water retention (particularly bloated ankles).

What about High Blood Pressure in Women?

Many people mistakenly believe that high blood pressure, also called HBP or hypertension, is more common among men. The truth is HBP is an equal opportunity disease. Beginning at age 65, after the onset of menopause, women are actually more likely to have this disease than men.
While HBP isn't directly related to gender, certain woman's issues can increase your risk. Birth control pills may increase your risk as well as your family history stress and lifestyle.

 Can herbs help support your heart?

It is important to note that an herb is never one thing for one thing. Herbs are complex living foods working with multiple body systems as balancers and normalizers. They often work best in combination. Herbs work with other herbs with amazing synergy, aiding the healing process gently but effectively for the best results.