Study finds women unsure of when to start getting heart screenings

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Women unsure of when to get heart screenings, study finds
A new report found most women over the age of 20 don't know when they should have a heart screening.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new report found most women over the age of 20 don't know when they should have a heart screening.

This may be part of the reason why a woman dies of heart disease every minute.

Even though Dorey Huston had a family history of heart disease, she didn't start checking on her own heart health until her mid-30s.

Huston is not alone. The survey, done by Orlando Health National, found most women are painfully unaware of when heart screenings should start.

The American Heart Association recommended healthy heart screenings start at age 20, yet 60 percent of women said they didn't think heart screenings should start until after age 30, a full decade later.

"The earlier you can identify the risk factors, the better. Hence, if you can identify them in your 20s or 30s, the likelihood of you having heart disease in your 70s or 80s may be less," said Dr. Kristal Young, cardiologist at Huntington Hospital.

Young said age is a factor, hardening of the arteries and cholesterol begins developing in our teens and early 20s.

What should a heart screening include? Blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and in some cases, it may involve getting an EKG.

"I would strongly recommend everybody start with learning their family history - asking their parents, asking their relatives about their risk and their risk factors and their experiences in hospitals. And then discussing it with your primary care doctor," Young said.

The earlier you know your risk factors the better, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk, she added.

For example, some women may need to start daily aspirin therapy.

If we all had regular screenings, we'd be reminded to reduce stress in our lives, exercise daily and eat healthier.

"I think it's important to see your doctor once a year to get checked," Huston said.

Doctors said at age 20 you should also start keeping track of your BMI and waist size, both of which can be predictors of heart problems.

One of the reasons women, in particular, should start being checked at age 20 is that heart health becomes increasingly important should women decide to become pregnant.