Many women don’t think about heart disease, especially if they are thin and don’t smoke. They assume only those who smoke and are overweight are susceptible to the number one killer of women. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are major contributing factors, and many women suffer from both. There are seven important heart health facts every woman should know.

1. High Blood Pressure

There are several factors that place women at risk of developing heart disease. High blood pressure (hypertension) affects women who are thin or overweight. The condition can have genetic causes that may require medication for control. If other members of your family have suffered from hypertension, be sure your physician is aware.

2. Visceral Fat

Having a normal body mass index (BMI) isn’t a guarantee you will not develop heart disease. Women who are thin can have a high amount of visceral fat. This type of fat is stored around the liver, pancreas, and intestines. Visceral fat is dangerous and secretes inflammatory substances, which damage the heart.

3. Loneliness and Depression

Many women do not realize that depression and loneliness are linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease. Stress hormone levels increase when you are depressed or lonely. The hormones, cortisol and adrenaline) can raise your blood pressure and promote inflammation. If you are feeling very sad, lonely, or anxious, speak with your physician about your feelings.

4. Pregnancy Issues

If you suffered health issues during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or pre-eclampsia, you have a higher risk of developing heart disease. It’s important that your primary care physician be aware of your pregnancy issues and performs annual cardiovascular health checks.

5. Sleep Deprivation

When women don’t get sufficient sleep, the levels of inflammatory cytokines and cortisol are raised. These hormones increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels. People getting less than five hours of sleep can have fifty-percent more calcium in the coronary arteries. This is an early indicator of developing heart disease. Going over nine hours of sleep each night also increases the calcium in the arteries.

6. Fitness

If you are fit in your forties, you can reduce your risk of heart disease significantly. It is never too late to improve your health, but those women who are active, eat healthfully, and have a regular exercise program in their mid life are least likely to develop heart disease.

7. Nutrition

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day is vitally important to health. Women who adopt a clean diet (free of manufactured food) can improve their health. Cooking from scratch makes a huge difference, and you avoid the chemical additives that can affect your health.

Women can live longer following by acting on the above facts. Be informed and be healthy. Knowing how to take care of your heart is key to avoiding heart disease.