You’ve probably heard that heart disease is one of the most common health conditions in women today. From lifestyle choices to genetics, dozens of factors combine to create your individual risk.
While many risk factors for cardiovascular disease are the same for both men and women, some women’s health conditions may play a role too. Find out more about how these common OB GYN concerns could have a link to your heart health.
Menopause—the end of your monthly period—comes with age. And age can be a risk factor for heart disease as well. The likelihood of some heart conditions, such as a heart attack, increases in the years following menopause.
The full connection between hormonal changes during menopause and heart disease risk is still being studied. However, some studies have found a link between early menopause and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. A study published in The Lancet showed women who reached menopause before age 50 had a greater risk of a non-fatal cardiovascular event than those who reached menopause at age 50 or 51.
If you experienced certain conditions during pregnancy, they may increase your risk for future heart disease. The American College of Cardiology says these include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and delivery before 37 weeks.
Pregnancy-related conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes often resolve on their own after your baby is born. However, because they can increase your heart disease risk in the long-term, it’s important to let your doctor know if you’ve had these common pregnancy complications.
Age at your first period
Studies show that the age when you got your first period can make a difference in your cardiovascular health later in life. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found women who started their period before age 10 had a greater risk of a major cardiac event when they were older. The study also showed women who had their first period after age 15 had an increased risk too.
Birth control choices
There’s a link between birth control options that contain estrogen—including combination birth control pills, vaginal rings, and patches—and an increased risk of blood clots. Because of this, women with certain cardiovascular risk factors or previously diagnosed heart conditions should talk to their OB GYN about other choices.
According to the American Congenital Heart Association, talk to your OB GYN if you have factors such as poor heart function, past blood clots, uncontrolled high blood pressure, past heart attack or stroke, pulmonary hypertension, or smoking over the age of 35.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) increases your risk for a number of conditions that affect your heart health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says women with PCOS are more likely to be insulin-resistant, which can contribute to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high LDL cholesterol. Together, all of these can increase your risk of heart disease, especially as you get older.
Care for your heart
If any of these common women’s health concerns apply to you, talk with your OB GYN and your primary care doctor. Cardiovascular disease is complex, so only having one risk factor may not be as concerning as having multiple risks. With your doctor’s help, you can make a plan to change the risk factors you can control and protect your heart health.