5 Heart Disease Risk Factors Every Woman Needs To Know About

"I cannot underline the importance of looking after your body and your health enough" – Mediclinic cardiologist.


Cally Silberbauer |

September is Heart Awareness month. Heart disease and strokes are the second highest cause of death in South Africa (only HIV can beat this killer!), so this is definitely something we can’t brush off. A healthy heart literally is a matter of life and death. Here, the risk factors you need to be aware of and what you should be doing to prevent it…

Affairs Of The Heart

I ed Dr Annarie van Rensburg, a cardiologist at Mediclinic Durbanville. As an expert in affairs of the heart, she was able to advise me on what the risk factors are and what we should be doing daily to keep our hearts healthy.

Watch: 4 Simple And Easy Ways To Keep Your Heart Healthy

“The risk factors for women are similar to those of men,” Van Rensburg begins. But when it comes to prevention, she can’t underline the importance of looking after your body and your health enough. Here’s what you need to know…

Risk Factor 1: Smoking

Smoking is a BIG risk factor when it comes to heart health. We already know this, but here’s a reminder that you are jeopardising your own life every time you light up. “Women who smoke 20 cigarettes a day have a six times increased risk of having a heart attack, while with men the risk is three times higher.” So it’s even riskier for us girls. My advice: quit now, while you’re ahead.

Watch: What Do Those Blood Pressure Numbers At The Doc’s Office Even Mean?

Risk Factor 2: Diabetes

If you suffer from diabetes, there’s a chance that your heart may be at risk. If it’s your lifestyle choices that have led to diabetes, such as a sedentary lifestyle, then here’s the wake-up call: it’s time to get active! “Having diabetes is also associated with a greater risk of developing heart disease in women than in men,” says Van Rensburg.

Watch: 10 Best Low-Sugar Fruits That Won’t Mess With Your Blood Sugar

Risk Factor 3: High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can be genetic, but it’s typically associated with obesity. Again, a sedentary lifestyle can be your biggest enemy. A healthy diet and keeping active are not only necessary for you to look your best, they’re also the doctor’s recommended remedy for preventing heart disease.

Watch: Everything You Really Need To Know About Diabetes

Risk Factor 4: Hypertension

High blood pressure is known as a silent killer because there are often no symptoms. Regular blood pressure check-ups are advisable and, again, a healthy diet is key. Read: fresh fruit and veg, and cut back on processed food high in salt, sugar and oil.

Watch: “I Felt Completely Normal But My Blood Pressure Was Through The Roof”

Risk Factor 5: Advancing Age

“The risk of developing heart disease increases dramatically once a woman is post-menopausal,” says Rensburg. “If there is a family history of premature coronary artery disease in family members below the age of 55 (men) or (65) women, or a family history of high cholesterol, the risk is also significantly increased.”

Okay, I hear you – not much we can do about ageing, much as we try. Just focus on getting regular check-ups and look after yourself!

Watch: What Your Heart And Sex Have In Common

What Should All Women Do To Lower The Risk Of Heart Disease?

“Lead a healthy lifestyle,” Van Rensburg stresses again. This includes getting in a sweat session at least five times a week. “Maintain a healthy body weight,” she continues, “a BMI between 19 and 25.” Smoking is a big no-no. Just don’t do it – it’s not worth risking your heart. “Have your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar checked regularly,” Van Rensburg concludes. The intervals at which this should be checked increase as you age, but it is necessary for everyone. “Everyone should have it checked, then discuss with their doctor what the recommended treatment is or when the next visit should be scheduled.”

Watch ON: Diet Advice Health Health Advice Heart Disease Heart Health