You are always on a diet and cooking for your family while your spouse is always sitting back watching sports on TV with a beer in his hand. Of the two of you, which one is at a higher risk of having a heart attack?

These factors may make no difference in your heart-health, instead learn how your gender can influence your heart health and the lifestyle changes that you must make to ensure you reduce your own risk for heart disease.

Heart disease is one of the largest killers in the nation. Diseases of the circulatory system and the heart including coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and heart failure account for one in every three deaths. According to the British Heart Foundation, this is equal to 91,000 deaths in a single year. While most often the risk factors for both genders is the same, there are specific lifestyle choices made by both which can dictate how susceptible each one is to developing heart disease.

Now you may be wondering what puts you at risk. There are several risk factors for heart disease. The more of these risk factors a person has, the greater their chances are of being affected by heart disease at some point in their life.

There are two categories, those things that you can change and those things that you cannot change. First, let us review those that you cannot change. You cannot change your age. The older that you are, the greater your risk is for developing heart disease. As many as twice the numbers of people in the 55 – 64 age range are likely to develop heart diseases then those in the 45 – 54 age groups.

You cannot change your family history. If you have parents or siblings that have heart disease, you are at an increased risk. If an immediate family member has suffered a stroke or developed CHD at a young age, under 65 for women or 55 for men, your risk of developing the same is at an increased risk.

You cannot change your ethnic background. People of South Asian and African descent are at a higher risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease.

If you suffer with type 1 diabetes, you can take steps to ensure that you do not develop type 2 diabetes such as maintain a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise. Diabetes can increase your risk factor for developing heart disease.

If you are a woman who is in menopause or has gone through menopause, this is another risk factor that you cannot change. Some studies have shown that women who have gone through menopause are at a higher risk due to a drop in hormone levels.

The biggest thing that an individual can change is their diet. A diet that is high in salt, trans-fats and saturated fats increases the person’s risk of developing heart disease. Instead, enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains to decrease your risk of heart disease.

If you are overweight, lose the extra pounds. Obesity can increase your risk of heart disease substantially. Belly fat is the worst culprit of this disease and effects more women than it does men. Women are more likely to have belly fat.

Control your blood pressure. One in three adults suffers with hypertension, or high blood pressure. This disease increases an individual’s risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Control your hypertension with diet, exercise and medication. This risk factor increases with age.

Keep your cholesterol under control. By eating fewer saturated fats, you can keep your cholesterol levels in check. You can also control it with exercise and medication when required. Keeping cholesterol levels low will help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

If you are a smoker, quit. Studies have shown that those who smoke have double the chances of having a heart attack than those who have never smoked. Smoking contributes to nearly 25,000 deaths from heart disease each year. By quitting, you can reduce your chances of developing heart disease.

Do not drink alcohol in excess. While small amounts of alcohol can be good for the heart, excessive amounts can cause stroke, abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure. Although studies have shown that men tend to drink in excess more, this is not always the case. More than 1/3 of men and almost 1/3 of women drink in excess on a regular basis.

While isolation, depression and stress do not cause heart disease, these factors can lead to risky behaviors for coping including overeating and excessive drinking. More women than men tend to suffer with depression and anxiety.

Learn the warning signs of heart attack. It is essential to be aware of these symptoms and to get immediate help. If you delay for too long you are risking damage to the heart muscle. Signs to watch for include the following:

  • A heavy feeling in your chest
  • Chest pain or discomfort that spreads to the back, stomach, jaw, neck or arms
  • A feeling of indigestion that makes you feel generally unwell
  • Trouble breathing, feeling sweaty and light-headed, feeling sick

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, women are less likely than men are to experience chest pains. Only 30 percent of women reported chest pain while 42 percent of men did. According to this study, a woman’s age is also a factor in whether or not she experiences chest pains. The younger she is the less likely she is to experience pain.

According to the heart foundation in the UK, more than one million women suffer with heart disease with nearly half of them having had a heart attack. Women, more than men, are likely to have a stroke. It was originally believed that this was due to the drop in estrogen when a woman reaches menopause but new studies are out that challenge this theory. The link may be that after menopause a woman is more likely to put weight on around her belly versus her hips.

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