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  • AZ Heart Foundation

HELPING MOMS STAY HEALTHY

Updated: 2 days ago

While May presents a great opportunity to honor and celebrate mothers, it’s also a fitting time to raise awareness about the common heart-related health issues many women and moms face. From pregnancy-related risks to those that affect general health and wellness, here are some of the key areas where women may encounter heart-related challenges – and some helpful tips for prioritizing heart health through preventative measures and proactive lifestyle choices.


PREGNANCY


Heart disease is the leading killer of new moms in America, and Black women face an especially high risk of developing cardiovascular disease amid pregnancy. A woman’s heart and blood vessels face additional strain while carrying a child, and the metabolic demands placed on the heart during this time can make certain heart issues apparent that may not have been before.



PREECLAMPSIA


A type of high blood pressure that can develop during pregnancy, preeclampsia affects about one in 25 pregnant women and poses serious health risks for expectant mothers. Preeclampsia can raise the risk of a host of other serious health issues, and in some cases, it can even prove life-threatening for mothers and infants.


The only real “cure” for preeclampsia is delivering a baby. In serious cases, doctors may choose to deliver a baby early to reduce the risks associated with the complication.



GESTATIONAL DIABETES


Gestational diabetes, or diabetes brought on by pregnancy in a woman who didn’t have the condition before, can also increase the risk of heart disease. Many pregnant women take glucose tests amid pregnancy to determine whether they have this potentially dangerous condition.


While some expectant mothers may be able to control their gestational diabetes through a combination of diet and exercise, others may have to take insulin or other medications to help manage the condition. Starting pregnancy at a healthy weight and avoiding gaining excess weight can also reduce gestational diabetes risks.


HEART DISEASE


Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, and 44% of the nation’s female population has some form of heart disease. Types of heart disease common among women include coronary artery disease, arrythmia and heart failure, and certain factors, such as smoking, stress and excess body weight, can elevate one’s risk further.


Many different preventative measures can lower a woman’s risk of heart disease, from getting enough physical activity to managing stress levels and alcohol consumption.


GIF depicting cholesterol building up in arteries

HIGH CHOLESTEROL


High cholesterol can also impact women’s heart health, increasing the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Elevated levels of cholesterol can cause plaque to accumulate in the arteries, narrowing them and restricting blood flow to the heart. Over time, this can weaken the heart muscle. It can also increase the likelihood of heart-related health complications.


Women, and, in particular, post-menopausal women, face an increased risk of high cholesterol, highlighting the importance of monitoring cholesterol levels and adopting heart-healthy lifestyle habits. Maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and avoiding or quitting smoking can help lower cholesterol levels, and in doing so, reduce heart disease risks.


STROKE


Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death for American women, but there is some good news: four out of five strokes are preventable. Since there’s a close connection between strokes and heart health, taking steps to maintain a healthy heart can also reduce one’s risk of stroke.



Managing cholesterol levels, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking are all important steps in reducing stroke risks. Staying active, eating healthy and limiting alcohol intake can further support stroke prevention efforts.


HEART DISEASE PREVENTION & HEART HEALTH PRESERVATION


This May, in addition to honoring moms and recognizing their many contributions, help raise awareness about the importance of heart health and encourage mothers at risk for heart problems to prioritize their well-being and pursue preventative care.


By starting conversations, sharing resources and taking preventative steps like following a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity, mothers can work toward a healthier heart, a happier life and a lengthier, brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.


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