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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Attacks in Middle-Aged Women: Lower Your Risk

By Janie McQueen
WebMD Feature

“Heart attacks only happen to old guys.”

“They say 55 is the new 40.”

Guard Your Heart

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of U.S. men and women. Get information to protect your heart's health.

Related Content

 

“Heart problems don’t run in my family, I don’t think.”

“I have too much going on to worry about that right now.”

Ever hear or tell yourself this? The truth is, women between the ages of 40 to 60 -- give or take some years -- can and do have heart attacks. Each year, about 88,000 of these middle-aged women in the U.S. will have one.

Doctors used to think that heart disease was linked to menopause, says Pamela Ouyang, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Women's Cardiovascular Health Center. But there’s no clear tie between the loss of estrogen and increased risk, Ouyang says. A woman actually has a greater chance of getting heart disease in her 60s and 70s.

This means it’s prime-time to boost your health and lower your chances of problems at a young age. You can start right now with some simple changes.

Ditch the Guilt

Women who think they can do it all or die trying might do just that, says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO. She’s director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Once that juggling act starts, she says, “lots of the time, the health practices and the self-care are the first to go.”

So how do you stop putting yourself last? Realize that taking care of you helps others. “It comes back to you,” Steinbaum says. “You’re not allowed to feel guilty. When you don’t spend the effort on yourself, you’re going to get sick.”

Exercise

Your doctor means it. But working out doesn’t have to be a formal event. And you don't need to do it all in one session.

“Find some exercise you like,” Ouyang says. “If you force yourself to go to some class you hate, you’re never going to keep it up.”

If you’ve got a tight schedule, sneak movement into your day. Think about these hidden opportunities:

  • When you’re on a call, stand, don’t sit.
  • Find a partner and walk at lunchtime.
  • Park farther away from buildings.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, if you’re at home, circle the block to break up the time you sit.
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