10 Strange Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women
Probably you are already well aware of certain risk factors for heart disease that pertain nearly exclusively to women. But have you ever heard about the following factors, which may seem weird?
- Early menarche. A study found that starting periods before age of 12 increases the risk of heart disease.1 At this, the early you have had your periods started, the greater are the chances. Girls who got their first menstruation before the age of 12 are 10% more likely to develop heart disease than those who got theirs at age 13 or older. Although it is not exactly known why, but this can be due to increased estrogen levels that can escalate the risk of atherosclerosis and stroke.
- Diet pills. Diet pills are all stimulants that can damage your heart. They increase blood pressure and heart rate, which puts a stress on the heart. If taken for a long time, they can cause a permanent damage to the heart. At this, diet pills do not actually make you slim as most of them simply do not work. The only efficacious method of losing weight is healthy diet and physical activity – the two things guaranteed to improve your heart health as well.
- Flu. Having recently had a bad flu increases the risk of myocardial infarction.2 This is because dangerous viruses and bacteria that incited the condition can enter the heart, resulting in heart disease and heart failure. So, if you are swollen after having the flu or find it difficult to breathe lying down, get to the hospital immediately.
- Loneliness. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 30%.3 This is as much as smoking does. Fortunately, you can cope with this risk factor by doing exercises, meditation, yoga or by joining a community club, or getting a pet. It has been proven that pets relieve depression,4 anxiety, stress and improve blood pressure. Walking a dog out is a good source of both exercise and companionship.
- Difficult pregnancy. Carrying fetus itself gives our circulatory system extra work. But when it is aggravated by other factors, such as high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia) or gestational diabetes, there is a risk for heart disease in the future. This risk also increases for women who have had premature delivery or suffered from severe preeclampsia more than once.
- Alcohol. Drinking alcohol every day, especially, having two or more servings, can have an adverse effect on the body and heart health. So, if you are one of those who come home after work and gulp down a glass of wine, stop doing that altogether or limit yourself to one or less drinks per day.
- Depression. Depression not only increases the chances of heart disease, but also doubles the risk of dying from it.5 This is because in times of depression our body produces excessive amounts of cortisol – a stress hormone linked to heart conditions. Moreover, depressed people find it harder to do things that reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
- Inflammatory disease. Inflammatory diseases like Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, which usually targets females, causes inflammation in the body resulting in damaged blood vessels and plaques.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Medications used to treat this condition are stimulants that elevate blood pressure and heart rate – all of which puts strain on the heart and increases the risk of heart problems.
- Child abuse. Traumatic events in childhood, such as being sexually abused, being subjected to systematic bullying or witnessing others being hurt, usually develop into heart disease in women as adults.6 Consult a psychologist about how to heal those emotional scars.
- Peters SAE, Woodward M. “Women’s reproductive factors and incident cardiovascular disease in the UK Biobank”. Heart. 104:1069–1075. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2017-312289
- Jeffrey C. Kwong, M.D., Kevin L. Schwartz, M.D., et.al. “Acute Myocardial Infarction after Laboratory-Confirmed Influenza Infection”. N Engl J Med. 378:345-353. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1702090
- Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB. “Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for CVD: implications for evidence-based patient care and scientific inquiry”. Heart. April 18, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2015-309242
- Andrea Beetz, Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, et.al. “Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin”. Frontiers in Psychology. 3: 234. July 9, 2012. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234
- “Depression Doubles Risk of Death After Heart Attack, Angina”. American College of Cardiology. March 08, 2017. https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2017/03/08/12/21/depression-doubles-risk-of-death-after-heart-attack-angina
- Shakira F. Suglia, Karestan C. Koenen, et.al. “Childhood and Adolescent Adversity and Cardiometabolic Outcomes: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association”. Circulation. 137:e15-e28. December 18, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000536