Message to young women: You’re not invincible…You can drop dead from a heart attack today!
Heart disease is the third leading cause of preventable death among women between the ages of 25 and 44. Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms of heart disease in young women which makes early detection and prevention quite difficult. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle (i.e. a lack of physical exercise) independently contribute to increased risk of heart disease in women. Even when women are moderately overweight, their risk of heart disease is increased. As such, weight management through exercise/physical activity and sensible nutrition is important for prevention.
A case in point: I recently had a consultation with a prospective client who I’ll call Rebecca. Rebecca was a 26-year-old, straight-A medical student slightly overweight but otherwise healthy. As usual, I gave her a full health screening in order to ensure that she was physically ready to initiate an exercise training program. All of her tests were normal except for one, triglycerides. Triglycerides should normally be less than 150 and Rebecca was at 485 which is high…so high that I decided to test her again just to be sure. Her second reading was 484. I was perplexed because her blood pressure and total cholesterol were normal and I just didn’t expect to see such a result in someone so young. As a result, I insisted she see a physician before we proceeded. A few weeks later she called me and stated that her physician told her that she’d suffered a mild heart attack just prior to our meeting. Recalling the day in question, Rebecca thought that she had heart burn.
Rebecca is a real person and this is a real story. The scary thing is that this happens more often than one might think. Furthermore, women actually have increased rates of debilitating illness and even death after heart attacks compared to men and, in many cases, these women have no knowledge that heart disease is present. Luckily, Rebecca survived.
As I said before, young women, and young people in general are not invincible. With that said, here are 2 ways to reduce your risk of developing heart disease today:
1. Get tested AND discuss your results with the physician! All it takes is a simple blood test called a lipid profile. This test is designed to measure your triglycerides (fat in the blood), total cholesterol, LDLs (“bad” cholesterol), and HDLs (“good” cholesterol). Buildup of LDLs and triglycerides lead to plaque formations that cause heart attacks and strokes while HDLs are responsible for removing LDLs from arterial walls. Discuss your lipid profile with the physician and make sure that you understand your results. Oftentimes, physicians will tell you that your lipid profile is “okay” without further explanation.
2. Eat sensibly AND exercise. You can lower LDLs by consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, exercise reduces triglycerides and increases HDLs. All you need to do is perform exercise (i.e. walking, jogging/running, swimming) and/or moderate physical activity (i.e. gardening, house cleaning, dancing), 5 to 7 days per week for at least 1 hour. In addition, include at least 2 days of full-body weight training in your exercise routine to enhance your metabolism (i.e. the rate at which you burn calories).
Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.