Almost half of U.S. women are unaware of heart disease risks

CLEVELAND – When it comes to health awareness, many women know their personal risk for breast and ovarian cancers.

However, a recent study indicates that 45 percent of women are still in the dark when it comes to knowing the risk factors for heart disease, which is actually the number one killer of U.S. women.

Researchers surveyed 1,011 women between the ages of 25 and 60.

They found that despite a majority of the women having a routine physical in the past year, only 40 percent of them reported having a heart assessment.

Leslie Cho, M.D., a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the study, but said there are important heart disease risk factors that every woman should know.

“The number one risk factor for heart disease is smoking,” said Dr. Cho. “If you’re smoking, you need to quit. The others are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a family history of heart disease.”

Dr. Cho said many times women are so focused on reproductive health during their child bearing years, that it’s easy for them to neglect other health care needs.

As a result, women sometimes skip their visit with their primary care doctor, which Dr. Cho said is a missed opportunity for these women to know where they stand when it comes to their heart disease risk.

She said that every woman needs to have her blood pressure, cholesterol and weight checked each year.

Dr. Cho said heart disease is preventable and that changes made now can impact a woman’s life 20 years down the road, with not only a longer life, but also a better quality of life.

“Heart disease can be prevented by eating well and by exercising,” said Dr. Cho. “Even if you have heart disease, the quality of your life can be better by practicing good primary prevention.”

Dr. Cho said it’s also important for people to know their family’s heart health history. She said those who are at an increased risk for heart disease have a primary family member – a mother, father, brothers or sisters – who have had heart disease before the age of 55 for men, or before age 65 for women.

“If we can prevent heart disease, and you never have to have a stent, or a bypass surgery, or have a stroke, that would be amazing,” said Dr. Cho. “So it’s really important to have good preventative care for heart disease.”

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.