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What Do You Do To Protect Your Heart? By Dr. Shani Saks

By Expert June 30, 2009 - 10:40am
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What Do You Do To Protect Your Heart?
Since Heart Disease Is the Number One Killer Among women…

For both men and women, the most common factors that contribute to heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and family history. Although you can’t do much about your family history or age, you can make lifestyle changes to avoid many of the other risk factors.

Don’t Smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease in women. More than half of all heart attacks in women under age 50 are related to smoking.

Atherosclerosis: Also called hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis is caused by deposits of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that accumulate on the inner wall of the artery, creating plaque. Over time, the inner diameter of the artery narrows, and blood flow through the artery is reduced or stopped. Blocked arteries cannot supply an adequate amount of oxygen-rich blood to the organs, muscles, and tissues. Blood clots also form more easily in atherosclerotic vessels; they can lodge in a narrowed artery and block the flow of blood.

The risk of developing atherosclerosis is greater in people who smoke. Fat builds up more easily on arterial walls damaged by the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke, and total cholesterol levels in the blood increase half a point for each cigarette smoked.

Smoking also makes the blood thicker, so it is harder for the heart to pump. Slow-moving blood is more likely to clot and block a narrowed artery.

Heart Attack and Stroke: Smokers have a 70 percent increased risk of heart attack and a higher number of strokes than nonsmokers. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke is directly related to the number of cigarettes a person smokes each day—the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk. Continuing to smoke after a heart attack increases the chance of having a second attack.

Angina is the chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen. Because smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and makes the heart beat faster, the heart requires more oxygen.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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