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Women's Heart Health: Experts Say Screenings Should Begin At Age 20

01/26/2017 12:07 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 12:07 EST

The American Heart Association recommends women pay closer attention to heart health from the age of 20. However, most American women don't think heart screenings are necessary before the age of 41, according to a national survey carried out by the Orlando Health Heart Institute, Florida.

Cardiologists around the world are keen to raise awareness about heart health. With sedentary routines, poor diets and stress, modern lifestyles are increasing the risks and the number of cases of cardiovascular disease.

woman heart doctor

Women are a key target for awareness campaigns since they appear to particularly underestimate the seriousness of heart disease. According to a national survey carried out by the Orlando Health Heart Institute in Florida, 60 per cent of women think that screenings, such as electrocardiograms, don't need to begin until the age of 30. For the majority of women questioned, 41 was the average age at which they thought screenings should begin.

However, specialists recommend heart screening from the age of 20, because women can start developing atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries) from adolescence.

It is important to understand the risk factors of heart disease and make appropriate lifestyle changes as early as possible, explains Dr. Carolina Demori, a cardiologist who leads the Orlando Women's Cardiac Center.

Screenings should monitor weight and body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels and waist circumference, all of which are directly linked to heart health.

heart health

The American Heart Association also underlines the importance of recognizing telltale symptoms of heart disease, which can be different in men and women. The left side chest pain commonly felt during a heart attack is more commonly experienced by men, for example. Women may experience this, but they may also experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and indigestion.

Medical professionals recommend at least half an hour of daily physical exercise. Three hours a week of moderate exercise, or three intense 20-minute exercise sessions per week, can reduce the risk of premature death by 30 per cent.

Prevention also involves a healthy, balanced diet with a salt intake that's not too high. This should include fresh fruit and vegetables every day, dried pulses or legumes twice a week (lentils, chickpeas, etc.) and carbohydrates (wholegrain cereals). For cooking, alternate between olive oil and sunflower oil and use oils rich in omega-3 for seasoning (walnut, hazelnut, linseed, colza).

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