Heart disease is on the rise among younger women how to relieve heartburn during pregnancy

Rushed to the hospital for a battery of tests, Pemble learned she had a rare disorder known as peripartum cardiomyopathy. Triggered by the pregnancy, the condition led to congestive heart failure. Without her heart properly pumping, she was literally drowning in fluid that had collected in her lungs.

Most of us, including many doctors, still consider heart disease a condition of older adults, mostly men and women over age 65. But recent research from such groups as the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology tells a different story.

Deaths are up by about 1 percent annually in women younger than 55. It’s a real troubling trend, said Theresa Beckie, a researcher and professor of nursing and cardiology at USF Health. Heart attack hospitalizations are up and complications associated with treatment for heart attacks like stents or bypasses are up in younger women, as well.

Most experts blame the uptick in heart disease on increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and related chronic health conditions such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Younger women, particularly white women, are also more likely to smoke, long known to contribute to heart disease. And, as Beckie discovered in her research, women face increasing stress and suffer from depression and anxiety, all of which may contribute to risk.

For example, certain chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer may increase risk. Pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or preeclampsia and peripartum cardiomyopathy — which Pemble had — increase heart disease risk during and after the pregnancy.

This is a very big issue for younger women and it’s not talked about enough, said Dr. Angela McClanahan, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at USF Health. We think we’re young and we don’t have to give (heart disease) a thought until we’re older. But once you develop high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes, you could have heart disease at any point.

Of the 267,000 women who die from heart attacks in the U.S. each year, 35,000 are under age 55. We know women can have heart disease, but now we must think younger women get it, too, and they are more likely to die from heart attacks than men.

Earlier this week, USF Health, in partnership with Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital Tampa, announced the new USF Women’s Heart Health Program to provide treatment and risk assessment, while promoting heart disease prevention for women of all ages. Kristof-Kuteyeva and McClanahan will see patients two days a week at the new clinics in North and South Tampa.

Our population isn’t getting any healthier, Kristof-Kuteyeva said. Increased obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, along with smoking and inactivity are strong predictors of heart disease in younger women. It’s important to look for and treat these risk factors early.

As chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s Tampa Bay Metro Board, she hopes to increase awareness of symptoms, risk factors and the need for more research into women and heart disease. Kristof-Kuteyeva notes that 85 percent of cardiac-related clinical trials don’t include women.