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The female cancer threat that leads to heart attack

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Women and heart disease have a complicated history. What was once considered a man’s affliction is now the number one killer of women, leaving breast cancer behind in the dust.

As more and more is learned about heart disease and its growing threat to women, new light is being shed on the risk factors that are leading to nearly 500,000 related deaths annually. And some of the research has uncovered surprising revelations…

Now, research published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes has identified a ‘female’ disease that strikes more than 6 million women a year as a significant contributor to heart disease.

Data from the Nurse’s Health Study II, gathered during 20 years of follow-up, shows that women diagnosed with endometriosis are one and a half times more likely to have a heart attack than women never diagnosed with the condition.

Endometriosis is most common among women in their 30s and 40s and can lead to reproductive problems and carries an elevated risk for cancer.

Additionally, the research found that women with endometriosis were 1.35 times more likely to need surgery or stenting to open blocked arteries, and 1.91 times more likely to develop angina (chest pain).

“Women with endometriosis should be aware that they may be at higher risk for heart disease compared to women without endometriosis, and this increased risk may be highest when they are young,” said Fan Mu, Sc.D., the study’s lead author, who was a research assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, when the study was conducted.

Researchers noted that surgical treatment of endometriosis — removal of the uterus or ovaries — may partly account for the increased risk of heart disease. Surgically-induced menopause prior to natural menopause may increase risk of heart disease and this elevated risk may be more evident at younger ages.

This information is an important step in understanding heart disease in women — and in empowering women with the knowledge they need to address heart issues with their healthcare practitioners.

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