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For as long as I can remember, heart disease has been seen as a man’s disease, so much so in fact that women’s heart attacks often go unnoticed.
It’s a problem that makes it vital that every woman recognizes the symptoms of an attack so that she can advocate for the care a doctor might skip.
That goes for cardiovascular disease risk factors as well — like the long-held belief that high cholesterol. is more dangerous to men.
But is that the truth?
Or are the risk factors men and women face the same — warranting the same precautions and treatments by doctors to save lives?
An extensive global study by a team of scientists at the University of Gothenburg has finally answered those questions…
A gender divide? Not so much
The team followed 155,724 people across 21 countries, and five continents, all of whom had no history of cardiovascular disease when they joined the study.
They delved into multiple risk factors, including everything from high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes to smoking, diet and depression.
Then, they tracked all cases of fatal cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure for a full 10 years.
And they discovered that for the most part, cardiovascular risk factors are largely the same between men and women, with a few slight variations.
The results showed that:
- Metabolic risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes, were similar in men and women
- Depression proved to be a more significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease among men
- The link between a poor diet and cardiovascular disease was closer in women
- Smoking was more of a risk factor for women.
- High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol) had a stronger association with cardiovascular disease in men than women. However, they say that this finding needs confirmation in more studies.
Not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ for women
Looking at the list above, things are definitely not so one-sided.
But unless you grew up in a family where mothers and grandmothers suffered heart attack, like mine, I can see why many believed heart disease was a man’s disease.
So what fueled that decades-long stereotype?
Estrogen makes vessel walls more compliant and affects the liver’s capacity to get rid of LDL. That makes women less likely to develop the pathological changes in their coronary arteries that men do — at least until our estrogen stores begin dwindling as they naturally do.
That means when women’s hearts start going south, our age is advanced and we seem much less a victim of heart disease than a man in his 40s who experiences a widowmaker.
As Annika Rosengren, second author of the study, explains, “When it comes to cardiovascular disease in men and women, the similarities in terms of risk factors are considerably greater than the differences. But men are more vulnerable to high levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol, and we know from other studies that they develop pathological changes in the coronary arteries at a lower age than women, and tend to start developing myocardial infarction quite a lot earlier. With respect to early stroke, though, the sex differences are less pronounced, as we’ve also seen in other studies.”
Heart health support for men and women
Remind your doctor that just because you’re a woman, it doesn’t mean that your heart disease risks should be treated differently than a man’s.
And be sure to do things to support your heart health each day, like getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet, which has even been shown to be able to keep a second heart attack away.
Targeted nutrients can help support your heart health, like vitamin K2 which helps promote healthy blood vessels and blood flow; CoQ10, which acts as a “spark plug” molecule that supports energy in each of our cells, including those in the heart; and nattokinase, which acts as a natural vasodilator.
The thing to remember here is that heart disease is not as sexist as once thought. It strikes men and women and can be just as dangerous. It may affect us more — or less — at different times of our lives, but never let your guard down.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Cardiovascular disease risks the same in both sexes – ScienceDaily