Metabolic risks correlate with premature heart disease in middle-aged women

A physician holds a model heart in her hands to symbolize heart health

What are leading risk factors for coronary heart disease among younger women? According to a study in JAMA Cardiology, diabetes and insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking correlate with women between ages 45-65 developing heart disease. This includes a heart attack, heart surgery, or cardiac-related death. The results come from a 21-year review of 28,000 women, which is part of the Women’s Health Study.

As women ages 45 and older enrolled in the observational study, they shared blood samples, their medical history, and information about their lifestyle habits. Researchers followed up in 10 years. They assessed how 50 clinical factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin resistance, aligned with 1,548 incidents of coronary heart disease, which affected 5.5% of participants. For women ages 55 and younger, having a parent who had a heart attack before age 60 nearly doubled their chance of developing heart disease. Smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity quadrupled it. Diabetes increased the connection tenfold.

The researchers recommend heart-healthy living approaches, such as maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding tobacco, to reduce the risk of heart disease. The authors share population-wide strategies, including community health programs, preventive screenings, and early treatment, to support heart health at every age. The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.