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Pregnancy plays a role in heart disease risk for women

File photo
File photo (iStock Photos)

One in three women in the United States is living with some form of heart disease.

Traditionally, doctors have treated men and women the same when it comes to heart disease, but Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Leslie Cho explains it’s time to start thinking differently.

“For years, we’ve thought about men and women as having the exact same risk factors, which is hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smoking, diabetes and family history,” she said. “And yet, women had very low risk factors, when you look at traditional risk factors, and yet, they were having heart disease.”

Cho led a group in writing a new statement for the American College of Cardiology to prevent heart disease in women.

They looked at risk factors only women experience, like pregnancy.

High blood pressure during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, preterm birth and miscarriages all increase a woman’s risk of developing heart disease.

One in 10 women also has a common hormonal condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome, which increases their heart disease risk.

Women are also more likely to experience depression or mental health issues which can have an impact on their heart health.

“We really should be treating not just the blood pressure number, or the cholesterol number, but we should be treating the whole patient, including their mental health, to have a good cardiovascular outcome,” said Cho.

Women also play an important role in their family’s health, according to Cho.

“Women tend to be the health care decision-maker for the family, and they become role models for children, and whoever they’re providing care for,' Cho said.

Cho said it’s also important to be mindful of our diet and lifestyle because that’s what we can control when it comes to preventing heart disease.