Often, diseases can stack on top of each other, much like boxes of Valentine’s Day chocolates and candies. Some conditions may increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, including low thyroid levels and diseases of pregnancy. If your mother or grandmother has thyroid problems, you may benefit from screening as well. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy may have increased heart risk for five or more years after pregnancy. Treating these conditions may help reduce your risk of heart problems.
Nearly all women have choices that can help them live longer and stronger. These choices include exercise, diet and substance use. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week. You’ll know you’re hitting that moderate-intensity level if you’re building up a sweat. This can be variable based on your level of fitness. Some of my patients build up a sweat with a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Others prefer to swim, play tennis, or lift weights.
In terms of diet, pay attention to nutrition labels. Be on the lookout for high amounts of sodium and saturated fats that may increase disease risk.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that the more you smoke cigarettes, the shorter your life is likely to be.
Finally, physicians think about medicines you’re already taking. While some medicines reduce heart risk, others may increase it. Whenever I prescribe hormone pills – for birth control, hormone replacement or gender-affirming care – my patients and I weigh the risks and benefits of each treatment. Some of these medications increase risk of blood clots. Often, there are other medications that help us decrease these risks, like statins and aspirin. Since no medication is without risks, make sure to consult with your physician before starting a medication like aspirin.