Updated: May 31
Dr. Shreya Batra, ND
What women need to know about Cardiovascular disease.
Despite being one of the most preventable diseases in the world, Cardiovascular disease is considered to be the #1 cause of death for women, according to the CDC. It is considered the leading cause of death in American women including: African American, Caucasian, as well as American Indian females.
Although the typical risk factors for cardiovascular disease affect both male and females such as: increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol, diabetes/insulin resistance, physical inactivity, smoking, high stress, obesity…etc., it is important to note there are some risk factors that predominantly affect females.
Some female dominant risk factors include:
Pre-term delivery – delivery before 37 weeks gestation significantly increases chances of inflammation, infection and vascular disease later on in life.
Gestational diabetes – this results in diabetes risk to be higher by 7-fold after pregnancy and also independently increases the risk cardiovascular disease by 2-fold as well.
Pre-eclampsia – in a meta-analysis study, it was found that those who had pre-eclampsia during their pregnancies had almost a 4-fold risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
Menopause – Pre-menopausal women are often more protected against cardiovascular disease due to the benefits of reproductive hormones in the body. Steroid hormones produced by the ovaries and estrogen in the body have very strong cardio-protective effects. These hormones decline at menopause, decreasing the protective effect on the body and vascular system, ultimately, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – although PCOS is considered to be a reproductive concern, it also significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Given that many of the metabolic symptoms of PCOS include; insulin resistance and increased blood pressure and central weight gain, the risk for cardiovascular disease increases. Furthermore, those with PCOS often also have other risk factors such as increased CRP (inflammation marker) and homocysteine.
Birth Control Pill and hormone replacement: both things can increase the risk of clots in individuals who are more susceptible. It may impact cholesterol parameters and also may have a negative effect on blood pressure.
Breast cancer treatment – Although this is a diagnosis that may affect male and females, it is predominantly a concern for females. Thankfully, the survival rates for breast cancer are on the rise, thanks to modern science and medicine, however, the radiation and chemotherapy increases the risk for cardiovascular disease greatly.
Autoimmune conditions – Autoimmune disease affects males and females, however, there is a higher prevalence of a diagnosis for females. For those diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) or Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), their risk for a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke may increase by 50-fold! Although studies in this area are ongoing, a likely explanation is increased inflammation in the body.
The above is not an exhaustive list. Things not included or discussed in this post include: depression, stress, gut health, thyroid dysfunction…etc.
How do we reduce your risk?
Get the appropriate testing done – Just looking at cholesterol/lipid levels and glucose random is NOT enough. Make sure you are getting in-depth investigation that you deserve. With your health care practitioner, discuss testing insulin fasting, hsCRP, homocysteine, and appropriate hormones, as necessary. Consider genetic testing as well as it may be useful. Again, everyone is DIFFERENT. It is crucial that you get the testing that is ideal for your particular case.
Address the modifiable risk factors: stop smoking, increase movement/exercise, identify stressors, reduce trans-fats and processed in the diet and increase healthy, fresh and whole-foods.
Get a treatment plan that is right for YOU! There is no one-size-fits all for medicine and preventative medicine. It is important to determine your root cause and address your body specifically.
Your next steps:
If you would like to get started on a treatment plan best for you and you have any of the risk factors discussed in this post, please reach out and book a complimentary 15 minute meet and greet!
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