At the 2015 NAMS conference, speaker Dr. Samia Mora, MD, MHS, presented information that will be surprising to many women. She said that heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, cardiovascular disease deaths in women are equal to all deaths from cancer, lung disease and Alzheimer's disease combined.
This often surprises many women, especially since so much focus is on breast cancer prevention. Mora, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that 1 in 30 women will die of breast cancer, whereas 1 in 3 will die from CVD. One woman dies from CVD every minute.
Unfortunately, these deaths for women are being overshadowed by the coverage that goes to breast cancer. While it’s important to be vigilant about breast cancer prevention and treatment, the fact is that more women are dying from heart disease.
Obviously more attention needs to be placed on the causes and prevention of heart attacks in women.
Estrogen Levels and Heart Disease
Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of the artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. That means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow.
An article by the American Heart Association website said that “a decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women.”
While estrogen decline isn’t the only reason women face a higher cardiovascular disease risk after reaching menopause, it’s worth examining further and discussing with your doctor.
Challenges in Heart Disease Prevention
The biggest challenge is in making women aware that heart disease is the number one killer among women. The focus has been on breast cancer, but heart disease is a much bigger problem. And it needs to be emphasized that for most women it can be prevented through good nutrition and exercise.
In general, the American Heart Association recommends that women of every age:
• Get regular checkups
• Stay active