Unhealthy lifestyle choices are to blame for nearly three-fourths of heart disease cases in young women, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, accounting for one in four deaths each year in the United States. Although we’ve made steady progress in reducing mortality rates from heart disease throughout the past four decades, experts have noted a startling trend in mortality rates among young women. Not only has the decline in mortality rates from heart disease slowed among young women, this rate increased on average by 1.3% each year between 1997 and 2002 in women ages 35–44.
To learn more about heart disease in young women, experts tapped into data from the Nurse’s Health Study II, which has routinely collected health information from more than 100,000 women across the country since 1989. Focusing on a group of 88,940 women between the ages of 27–44, researchers compared healthy lifestyle choices known to reduce risk of heart disease, including not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, minimizing time in front of the television, eating healthy and limiting alcohol intake.
During 20 years of follow-up, researchers found that 73% of new heart disease cases were due to poor lifestyle choices. Similarly, poor lifestyle choices were to blame for nearly half of clinical risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Based on their findings, experts conclude that adhering to a healthy lifestyle could help substantially lower the burden of heart disease in young women. Not only could healthy choices prevent serious conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, a healthy lifestyle could save lives, particularly among young and middle-aged women.