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The Risk of Heart Disease in Professional Women

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Health Care for Women in Business


Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and with the pressures that professional women face, heart disease is an especially important issue to that subgroup in particular. To some of you this may come as a shock, but I assure you, this is nothing new. In fact, over the past decades while the death rate for heart disease in men has been declining, for women it is increasing. There are many reasons for this discrepancy, including the fact that women have not been included in major studies looking at heart disease. Even to this day, on average, only twenty-five percent of studies on heart disease include women. Needless to say, women need to know their risk and how to do something about it, so they don’t become just another statistic in this epidemic that was once known as only a man’s disease.


It was recently overheard that, “the more women live like men, the more they are going to die like them.” There are multiple risk factors that lead to heart disease besides age and family history, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyle. It is also very clear that stress and anger are large contributing factors in the development of heart disease, as well.


As professional women are doing it all—juggling home, family, and work—we are living like the stereotypical man, but doing it while still being the stereotypical woman. This multi-tasking is not only stressful, but leads to so many other unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating and not exercising, which in turn can develop into high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and eventually heart disease. Stress escalates everything, including heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation; all of these take its toll on the heart.


As we watch the line on the graph go up on the death toll for heart disease and women, it is hard not to think about the toll our multi-tasking has on our lives. Doing it all must include doing it for ourselves first. The studies on women have not been done yet, so we need to take action for ourselves. Know your risk of heart disease, know your cholesterol, blood pressure, family history, and if you have diabetes. Knowing your own personal risk empowers you to do something. Eighty percent of heart attacks are due to these preventable risk factors, so it is under your control.

We can change our diets, begin to exercise and, at times, take medication in order to decrease our risk. Carve out the time for yourself to decompress and to lower your stress. Nothing is going to change the juggling act, but to continue to keep the balls in the air, you must take care of yourself. Putting your heart first is just the beginning.


Written by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum exclusively for w2wlink.com, the premier online community for women working smart and living well.

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