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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects both men and women, however most women overlook the risks, thinking that CVD is predominately a male problem. Naturopath Jennifer McLennan looks more closely at this issue.
What is CVD?
CVD is a general term used to describe many different conditions which affect the heart and blood vessels. It is the leading cause of death for Australian women. Examples of factors that can contribute to cardiovascular problems include:
Blood Cholesterol: this is a fatty substance produced by the liver and is used to make hormones and cell membranes. Problems occur when cholesterol levels are abnormal, such as high LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol).
Blood pressure: refers to pressure in the blood vessels. High blood pressure puts strain on the heart requiring it to work harder.
Atherosclerosis: this occurs when fatty deposits build up in the walls of blood vessels causing plaque formation and blockages.
Women and CVD?
It is thought that oestrogen plays an important role in protecting women from CVD. After menopause, the protection of oestrogen is lost and women become more susceptible to developing CVD.
What are the risk factors for developing CVD?
The post-menopausal years can expose women to more risk factors for CVD.
More than 90% of women have one risk factor for heart disease and 50% have two or three risk factors. Risk factors that cannot be modified include age, gender, or genetics, however there are some that can be modified:
Part 2 will explore how women can minimise risk factors and improve their health and wellbeing.
References available upon request
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