Earlier today, Sheila Chhutani, M.D., an OB/GYN and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas, spoke at the Go Red for Women Luncheon in Dallas, TX. We caught up with her and asked some questions about heart health in women.
How can women protect themselves from heart disease and what steps can we take today?
Women can protect themselves from heart disease by making a choice each day to choose health. That means getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Staying active with at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (i.e. fast walking, dancing) for more days of the week than not. The 30 minutes can be split up throughout the day. Pay attention to food intake with a priority on vegetables and then add whole grains, lean meats and fruit. Limit saturated fats, sugars and processed food. Most importantly, find a healthy outlet for the stress we all face each day. The buildup of stress can contribute to cardiac events and it is important to have a healthy release.
Do you have any special heart health tips for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant?
Women of childbearing age should optimize their health prior to pregnancy by having a regular workout routine which can help with endurance needed for labor. Also, women should make sure they discuss pregnancy with their physician prior to pregnancy to address risk factors for heart disease and other pregnancy complications.
Are there any heart-related conditions that can be triggered by women’s health issues, for example, PCOS, endometriosis, or menopause?
There are many health conditions that are specific to women that can trigger heart-related conditions. PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can increase a woman’s risk of diabetes which is a known risk factor for heart disease. It is also associated with obesity and an increased amount of estrogen. The increased estrogen can increase risk of blood clots which can also increase risks of heart disease and stroke. Endometriosis, another condition specific to women, can increase inflammation which has been shown to increase risk of heart disease. Women with endometriosis have a 52% increased risk over those who do not. Two years after entering menopause, the time when the ovaries are no longer producing the hormones estrogen or progesterone, the risk of heart disease increases to that of a man’s. This is not to say that women who are premenopausal do not have heart disease, the risks increase with age.