Women Ignoring Family Heart Risk?
Experts Tell Women With Family History of Premature Heart Attack to Upgrade Lifestyle for Heart Health
Sept. 14, 2007 -- Women may be more likely than men to need a heart-healthy
lifestyle makeover if premature heart attacks run in their family.
That's the bottom line from a new study published in the American Heart
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of U.S. men and women. Having a family
history of premature heart attack (heart attack before 50 for men or 55 for
women) worsens the odds.
Among people with a family history of heart attacks, women were more likely
than men to need to upgrade their lifestyle and to need a reality check about
their heart risks.
Here's the good news: Though you can't change your family history, you can
still do a lot to help your heart.
The researchers have two key recommendations for women with a family history
of premature heart attack:
- Understand your risk. Even if you're young, your family history
doesn't bode well.
- Make your heart a priority. Upgrade your lifestyle for better heart
- Tell your doctor about your family's heart history.
"It's important that women get this message and make appropriate
lifestyle changes," says researcher Amit Khera, MD, MSc, in a news
"The earlier you make lifestyle changes, the more you decrease your risk
factors for heart disease in the future," says Khera, a cardiologist at the
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Women's Heart Risks
The study included some 2,400
Dallas men and women aged 30-50.
They reported their family history
of premature heart attack in a first-degree relative (parent or sibling),
smoking habits, physical activity, income, race, and whether they'd finished
Participants also got heart scans and their blood pressure, fasting blood
sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and BMI (body mass index) measured.
Most had no family history of premature heart attacks. But among those who
did, women were more likely than men to smoke and to have a sedentary
Women with a family history of premature heart attack were also less likely
than men to rate their lifetime heart attack risk as being at or
That's not to say that the other participants were in tip-top shape.
Regardless of family history, there's usually room for improvement in heart
The first step: See your doctor to gauge your heart health. Then work with
your doctor to plan your course of action.