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- Myth No. 3: Younger women should not worry about heart disease. While heart disease is the chief killer of women over the age of 65, it is also the second-leading cause of death in women ages 45 to 64 and the third-leading cause of death in women 25 to 44.
Young women also should be aware that the choices they make now will have a big impact on their risk for heart disease later. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking throughout your life can significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease during the golden years.
- Myth No. 4: Smoking is a greater heart-disease risk factor for men than for women. Technically, this is true - but probably not for long. Traditionally, men have been more likely to smoke than women. However, in recent years, there has been an alarming upward spike in the smoking rates of young women.
Only about 8 percent of women over the age of 65 smoke, according to the American Cancer Society. However, 22 percent of women ages 18 to 44 smoke. In fact, teenage girls are now as likely to smoke as teenage boys.
The risk of heart disease rises with both the number of cigarettes you smoke and the length of time elapsed since you first lit up. Research also suggests that smoking while using birth-control pills significantly escalates the risk of heart disease. Many of these risk factors can be reversed within 10 to 15 years of quitting. But as any smoker knows, that's often easier said than done.
- Myth No. 5: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can lower heart-disease risk. In fact, menopausal women who participate in estrogen replacement therapy actually may be at increased risk for heart disease.
Women who are undergoing HRT therapy are urged not quit taking their medicine without first discussing their concerns with a physician. Although HRT may increase heart-disease risk, it also reduces symptoms associated with menopause (such as hot flashes) and can lower a woman's risk of developing brittle bones that break easily, also known as osteoporosis.
It is important to weigh the benefits and risks of HRT therapy with your physician before making any final decisions.