Young Women Are Damaging Their Heart Health Without Even Knowing It
When it comes to taking care of our health, it's easy to focus on what's right in front of us, but that doesn't mean what we can't see should be overlooked. Heart disease, for example, is a leading cause of death for women, and yet new research found young women really aren't considering their risk for heart attack and stroke.
In a report from the American Heart Association released Tuesday, mood and stress disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are of greater concern to young women than heart disease. What's more, 90 percent of the surveyed individuals didn't even know heart disease was a major problem for women at all.
The study, which surveyed over 330 young women between the ages of 15 and 24, found almost 80 percent of women didn't worry about heart disease. This is also compared to 43 percent who were concerned with suffering from the aforementioned mood problems. Researchers also cited barriers to healthy-heart actions primarily in the fact that the subjects didn't understand the risk of heart disease as compared to stress.
We get it: It's easier to feel the immediacy of those issues that seem closer at hand, like mental mood problems. While heart disease can affect an individual at any age, it's typically viewed as a concern for later in life, but scientists emphasize the importance of taking preventive measures for improving longevity.
For starters, exercise more. And exercise doesn't necessarily mean hitting the treadmill for hours on end. Recent research suggests that simply taking a stroll can be effective for getting that blood pumping and strengthening up your heart.
Diet plays a huge role in preventing cardiovascular issues. While the verdict is still out on which diet is actually optimal for heart health, experts have pointed toward the plant-based direction, with diets that consist of plenty of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, fish, and limited red meat (sounds a bit Mediterranean, unsurprising giving the diet's popularity among nutritionists).
It's also important to know heart attack symptoms can differ greatly for women, meaning rather than chest pressure and shortness of breath, typical of heart attacks in men, women may experience nausea, fatigue, and racing heartbeats.
Maybe this is a reminder to get those priorities straight, or maybe this inspires you to make some heart-healthy changes. Either way, keeping your heart happy can only serve to benefit you in the long run.
Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development. She has also written for SFGate.com and The Stanford Daily and runs a paleo(ish) food Instagram, @healthy_lizard.