Lately, a lot of attention has been paid to heart disease and the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options unique to women. But don’t forget about the guys. Men face special issues when it comes to heart health. These involve:
Age. A man’s risk for heart disease increases at age 45—a full 10 years before women are at risk. Talk with your healthcare provider about your health history, steps you should be taking to reduce your risk and screenings you need.
Cholesterol. For women, good (HDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels are a good predictor of heart disease, but that’s not always the case for men. HDL is a better predictor for women ages 65 and older than it is for men. Men can usually tell their risk based on their total cholesterol, which, ideally, should be below 200 mg/dL. Experts recommend that all men ages 20 and older have their cholesterol checked every five years. But get tested sooner if you know your cholesterol is high and you have other heart disease risk factors.
Belly fat. Men are more likely to collect fat in the waist area. If your waist is greater than 40 inches around, you’re at increased risk for not only heart disease but also stroke, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea. There aren’t any shortcuts to trimming your waist. You know the drill: You have to reduce your calorie intake and increase your physical activity.
Aspirin therapy. When the benefits of taking a daily aspirin outweigh the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, experts recommend doing so to prevent a first heart attack in men ages 45 to 79, as it can reduce the risk by up to 32 percent. But aspirin doesn’t reduce the risk of stroke for men (for women, the opposite is true). Discuss with your provider the pros and cons of taking an aspirin daily.
Stress. While research has yet to definitively link stress to heart disease and heart attacks, at least one study of some 2,800 Swedish men found that those who let their anger mount at work without venting were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease compared to men who let it out. Women don’t seem to have this problem—experts think they’re better able to deal with such situations and are more apt to talk about their problems. Keeping things bottled up can increase harmful stress hormones in your system, so don’t be afraid to vent every now and then.