Young Women's Heart Disease Risk Worrisome

The heart disease risk faced by young women, which hasn't usually been front-and-center in the medical community, is coming more and more into focus, experts say.

As The Early Show began its six-part "Early Keeps the Beat" series Monday, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, head of the Women's Heart Program at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, explained to co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez that women 35-to-44 "has always been thought of as being very low-risk, by the traditional standards. And we know that this isn't always true."

But, she says, there are five things young women can do to stay on top of the possibility they could -- or are aleady starting to -- develop heart disease.

"Getting a family history is the most important thing, and a coronary artery calcium score might actually show plaque inside the arteries of these women who we thought were actually at low-risk."

In addition, Steinbaum urges young women to be aware of their blood pressure and blood sugar readings.

"Again," she said, "we always think of women not being at risk. Yet, more women than men actually have high blood pressure. And, in fact, there's a two- to three-fold increase in high blood pressure in women who take oral contraceptives -- again focusing on this younger population. Also, we know blood sugar that was usually considered normal, the 100 to 125 (range), actually puts a woman at risk for heart disease."

What's more, Steinbaum points out, even mildly elevated blood pressure during pregnancy has been linked to higher heart disease incidence later in life.

The last two things young women can do to reduce their heart disease risk, Steinbaum said, are to reduce their stress levels whenever possible, and watch their diets and get exercise.

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