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Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack?

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The Biggest Predictors of Heart Disease for Young Women

For women 45 and under, these are the biggest predictors of heart disease and attack.

  • Abnormal cholesterol levels. High triglyceride and low HDL levels are the most common red flags.
  • Drug or tobacco use. Cocaine, which can constrict arteries and compromise blood flow, has been associated with 25 percent of heart attacks in patients between the ages of 18 and 45. Sixty-five to 92 percent of heart-attack patients under 40 smoke.
  • Family history. If you have a relative who was diagnosed with heart disease at a young age, your risk is especially high. One study found that 62 percent of women under 55 who died from heart-related issues had first-degree relatives with the disease.
  • Obesity. While it's associated with other heart-disease warning signs, such as high cholesterol, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is a risk factor in itself.
  • Pregnancy. Increased demands on the heart, especially during the last trimester, can bring underlying problems to the surface.


Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2008.


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