Having to endure three traumatic events could be all it takes for a woman to end up with heart disease, researchers have warned.
Car crashes, death of children, experiencing a natural disaster and being physically assaulted all raise the risk for postmenopausal women.
A new study has revealed such women had poorer endothelial function – a known risk factor of heart disease, the world’s leading killer.
This means blood struggles to pass through major arteries easily, and can lead to hypertension – high blood pressure, University of Pittsburgh scientists said.
Experts are now calling for the findings, dubbed ‘important’, to be used by doctors when assessing a woman’s risk of heart disease.
Car crashes, death of children, experiencing a natural disaster and being physically assaulted all raise the risk for postmenopausal women
How was the study carried out?
The study, presented at The North American Menopause (NAMS) Society Annual Meeting, held in Philadelphia, involved 272 women.
All of the participants were asked how many traumatic events they experienced during their lifetime.
Pittsburgh researchers said such events included being in a motor vehicle accident, being physically assaulted and sexual harassment.
Ask women about traumatic life events, not just their diet
The study, led by Dr Rebecca Thurston, is one of the first of its kind to assess the impact of trauma on heart disease risk.
SEX CAN PREVENT HEART DISEASE
Regular sex really is the best medicine for preventing life-threatening heart disease – if you’re a man, scientists found in June.
Research showed making love several times a week can slash levels of homocysteine, a harmful chemical in the blood which can trigger cardiac problems.
It’s thought men getting sex often have better circulation and healthier blood vessels. This is crucial for preventing a build-up of homocysteine.
But scientists say women benefit much less because sexual arousal is less dependent on having a healthy blood flow, which is a key factor in keeping homocysteine under control.
Researchers behind the study called on doctors to advise male patients at risk of heart disease to have more sex.
She said: ‘These findings underscore the importance of psychosocial factors, such as trauma exposure, in the development of heart disease risk in midlife women.’
Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the NAMS, asked for women to be quizzed about more than just about how often they smoke, drink, exercise and their dietary habits.
She said: ‘This is an important study that should remind healthcare providers of the need to thoroughly discuss a woman’s history beyond simply asking about her physical health.’
Heart disease: The facts
Heart disease, often caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being obese, killed 8.76 million people across the world in 2015.
It remains the leading cause of death in the US, and second only to dementia in the UK, according to Government figures.
The dangers of going grey and ‘love handles’
The study comes after scientists at the University of Cairo, Egypt, found going grey may be linked to heart disease.
They said hair whitening may indicate increased artery damage, based on a relatively small study of 500 men.
Florida Atlantic University earlier this year also revealed that having ‘love handles’ may cause heart disease.
Excess fat around the waist rarely cause symptoms in the first 10 years, but then the risk skyrockets to up to 18 per cent, they found.
WHAT IS YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE?
Researchers have developed an online metabolic calculator that could help to predict a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes.
While the score is intended for doctors, anyone with the required health information can use it, University of Virginia scientists said.