February is Heart Health Month, and we're very grateful to have some expert wisdom on the subject from Dr. Sarah Speck. Dr. Speck has practiced cardiology and internal medicine in the greater Seattle area for over 20 years. She is the medical director of the cardiac wellness and rehabilitation programs at the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute in Seattle. In 2009, she co-founded POTENTRx, a medical fitness company, to offer patients a medically-supervised lifestyle approach to their health.
We were very pleased to have her on the roster for the M event, our one-day menopause conference, where she spoke on heart health and the increased risk of heart disease post-menopause. For a limited time, we're offering readers the opportunity to watch her presentation from the M event.
In the article below, Dr. Speck discusses some of the risk factors that increase a woman's chances of developing heart disease, but take heart! (ha ha) as there is a lot of hope to be had in making the right choices now.
As one of the first woman cardiologists to practice in the Seattle area, I’m often asked to speak to women about their risk of developing heart disease. Heart disease remains the biggest challenge to women’s health as more women die of heart disease and stroke than any other cause.
At the age of 45, one in nine women will have some form of heart disease, and by the age of 65, that will increase to one in three.
The encouraging news in 2019 is that heart disease is largely preventable if we can identify and pay attention to the management of certain risk factors that have been strongly associated with developing heart disease or strokes. For both men and women these include family history, high blood pressure, abnormalities in cholesterol, exposure to tobacco smoke, diabetes, being overweight, stress and being physically inactive.
For women, menopause signals a time when high blood pressure, weight gain, abnormalities in cholesterol and prediabetes or diabetes can seemingly “just happen” the further we get away from producing our own natural estrogen. Certainly then menopause is a risk factor for women, but NOW science is also telling us about other risk factors unique to women.
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Studies in 2018 showed that women who experienced hypertension or preeclampsia during pregnancy are 4-6 times more likely to develop hypertension later in life. They have a 70% increased risk of type 2 diabetes and have signs of heart disease earlier in life than women without hypertension during pregnancy.
Women with gestational diabetes are also more likely to develop diabetes and hypertension decades after pregnancy and so increase their individual risk of heart disease or stroke.
Postpartum depression or menopause-related depression can increase a woman’s risk for heart disease as can radiation treatment associated with breast cancer.
Recognizing that you may have some of these risk factors is an opportunity to use your lifestyle choices to prevent you from having a heart attack or stroke. Work with your health care provider and start building your own robust health portfolio today!
Sarah M Speck MD MPH FACC
Learn more about Dr. Sarah Speck and POTENTrx on the Speck Health website. Hear our earlier podcast with Dr. Speck on how to "manage, reverse, and prevent heart disease."
If you want to know your body better and understand where you are in the perimenopause > menopause transition, take Gennev's free Menopause Assessment.
Are you concerned about heart disease and are you taking steps to increase your heart health? We'd love to hear what you're doing! Join the conversation on heart health in the community forums, let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.