How Nutrition Can Prevent Heart Disease in Women

April 3, 2024 by Samantha Chapman0

How Nutrition Can Prevent Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease is the number one killer among women in the United States. Although there are risk factors that cannot be prevented (such as age, gender, ethnicity, and family history), there are ways you can take control of your health and lower your risk of developing heart disease. 

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a term used that includes many different types of heart problems. The most common in women is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). CAD is the buildup of plaque inside the arteries, which prevents adequate blood flow to the heart. This can lead to angina (chest pain), heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), myocardial infarction (heart attack), or heart failure.

The symptoms of heart disease often present differently in women than in men, making it harder to diagnose.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

  • Chest pain
  • Jaw or neck pain
  • Back or abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion, heartburn
  • Nausea/ vomiting

Some women with heart disease don’t have any symptoms. Because of this, if you have one or more risk factors, it is important to talk to a medical provider.

Risk factors

  • Age – women 55 and older are at a higher risk
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Post menopause (due to decrease in estrogen)
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis)
  • PCOS
  • Endometriosis
  • Hormonal forms of birth control
  • Diabetes
  • Stress levels
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High triglycerides

Although some risk factors are uncontrollable, there are ways to minimize your risk of developing heart disease. It’s important to limit alcohol consumption, avoid smoking, regularly engage in cardiovascular activity (exercise), and eat a heart healthy diet. 

What is a heart-healthy diet?

Because high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides put you at a higher risk for heart disease, it is important to eat foods that limit your risk of developing these conditions. It is also important to consider appropriate serving sizes to maintain a healthy weight. Heart healthy foods include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats. 

Nutrition matters

Nutrition is a great way to take control over your heart health. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it’s never too late to start making healthier choices. Are you not sure where to start? You may benefit by working with a Registered Dietitian (RDN). An RDN can help you identify your personal risk factors, help you to set goals, create an individualized meal plan, and provide further health and nutritional education. Whether you have many of the risk factors, or none at all, you won’t regret making healthy decisions to support your body and prevent heart disease.

Written by Samantha Chapman, BSN, RN

Review By: Mercy Aremu, RDN – Dietitian-Nutritionist


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