How to prevent cardiovascular disease in women

In 2020, the last year for which data is available, 119,853 people died in Spain due to cardiovascular causes, which represented 24.3% of total deaths, the first cause of death in Spain according to the Statistics of deaths according to cause of death published by the National Statistics Institute (INE). And of these deaths, 53.32% corresponded to women and 46.67% to men, which is why more women than men continue to die from cardiovascular disease. Specifically, in 2020 almost 8,000 more women than men died from this cause.

To reduce these figures, it is key to put into practice healthy lifestyles with which to prevent cardiovascular disease. And although both men and women would benefit from it, the recommendation is especially important for women since the data shows that only 45% of women know that the main cause of death in them is cardiovascular diseases , explains Dr. Jordi Trias de Bes Casamajó on the blog of the Spanish Society of Cardiology (SEC).

In fact, even in part of the medical community there is still the perception that women are at less risk of suffering from cardiovascular pathologies than men: less than half of family doctors or primary care doctors consider cardiovascular diseases something very important in women .

Hence, a first measure to prevent cardiovascular disease in women is to make women aware of the importance of self-care from childhood, monitoring traditional risk factors such as hypertension , diabetes , high cholesterol levels , obesity , sedentary lifestyle or smoke . For this, it is essential to stop smoking, follow a diet based on the Mediterranean diet and limit the consumption of sugar and salt, and perform physical exercise of moderate intensity for a minimum of 150 minutes a week – according to data from the Health Survey (ESFEC) 2021, women are more sedentary than men: 22.4% of them are, while in men this percentage drops to 16.2%.

Special attention to pregnancy and menopause

In addition to all of the above, it is important to pay attention to two moments in a woman’s life that can have important effects on her health. One of them is pregnancy, since preeclampsia and gestational hypertension that can occur during pregnancy cause a three to six times greater risk of suffering from arterial hypertension after pregnancy and a two times greater risk of suffering from ischemic heart disease and accident vascular brain, explains Dr. Trias de Bes Casamajó. Another possible complication is gestational diabetes , as explained by doctors Almudena Castro Conde, Milagros Pedreira Pérez and Raquel Campuzano Ruiz in the document ‘How to manage cardiovascular risk in women?’, not only increases the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in the short, medium and long term, but also of myocardial infarction.

The other stage to pay special attention to is menopause . Until its arrival, women have the protection of estrogens, female hormones that help control high cholesterol and glucose levels or overweight. But at the end of the fertile phase there are changes in the woman’s body that increase the probability that heart disease will appear . Dr. Antonia Sambola warns in this article that the increase in cholesterol levels, weight and also blood glucose levels, in addition to a greater tendency to suffer from hypertension, are the main changes to be aware of.

Finally, there are the so-called non-traditional risk factors that are predominant in women . They refer to certain autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma. “These disorders are highly prevalent in women who have a high risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases,” explains Dr. Jordi Trias de Bes Casamajó.


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