The American Heart Association recommends that women begin getting screened at age 20, but most women don’t consider going until decades later.
Considering that heart disease is the number one killer of women, you’d think we’d be talking about it a lot more. But women aren’t just avoiding the conversation—they’re avoiding heart screenings until it may be too late.
A new national survey by Orlando Health found that 60 percent of women thought heart screenings don’t need to begin until after age 30; the average age women believed they should start is 41. That’s two full decades later than the age the American Heart Association recommends women start getting screened: 20 years old. Only 8 percent of women knew screenings should begin in their 20s, although very few realized it was at age 20.
“This is a wake up call that there needs to be more education on heart health and more aggressive screenings to prevent a small issue from developing into life-threatening conditions,” Dr. Carolina Demori, a cardiologist who leads the Women’s Cardiac Center at the Orlando Health Heart Institute, told Science Daily. “Women can begin developing atherosclerosis, plaque in their arteries, in their teens and early twenties. Therefore, it is vital to understand risk factors and make appropriate life changes as early as possible.”
She emphasized that expanding educational efforts to children and young women is key. “Young people need to know what heart disease is and how they can prevent it, so they grow up with this knowledge and understand the preventative steps they need to take. Women cannot wait until they’re 40 to start paying attention to their risk factors,” Demori said.
In addition to heart screenings, Demori reminded people that a healthy diet and regular exercise is always a winning combination. Even walking is proven to help prevent heart disease.
“You don’t have to participate in vigorous exercise. You can start by just walking, but it’s extremely important to get into a routine of being active at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week,” Demori said. “The more you do, the more benefit for your heart.”