What Makes Younger Women at Risk for a Heart Attack

Risk factors such as chronic stress, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes and obesity are affecting younger and younger women

What Makes Younger Women at Risk for a Heart Attack

Q: My cousin Ellen, who's only 48, had a heart attack. What makes a younger woman vulnerable? I'd like to dodge that bullet. — Katie R., Santa Rosa, California

A: We used to think women weren't at risk for heart disease until after menopause. But these days, risk factors such as chronic stress, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes and obesity are affecting younger and younger women and can cancel out the "estrogen advantage."

New research published in the European Heart Journal - Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes, found that since 2010 the death rate from heart disease in U.S. women under age 65 has gone up. And the 2018 Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study found that while the risk of heart attack is going down for older folks, those 35-54 are seeing an increase, especially women. High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are major contributing factors.


Fortunately, most risk factors can be reduced with upgrades to nutrition, physical activity, sleep habits and stress management. Medications can also help control high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes. That's why everyone should have a baseline heart health checkup to assess their risk.

How to Stay Prepared

When it comes to avoiding heart disease, remember, you have the power to eliminate your risk for this largely preventable disease!

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