Surprising Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women

The New England Journal of Medicine just published a new study on the effects of radiation therapy on women who are being treated for breast cancer and the news is disturbing. Women who receive radiotherapy for breast cancer have a higher risk of ischemic heart disease.

The authors studied 2168 women who had radiotherapy for breast cancer between 1958 and 2001 in Sweden and Denmark. Within 5 years of receiving the radiation the women began having heart problems and this finding continued  for over 20 years after the radiation.

Not surprisingly, the greater the radiation dosage, the higher the risk of heart disease. The risk was greatest for women with preexisting cardiac risk factors. The good news is that since this study was done, the dosages of radiation women are exposed to have been lowered.

To me, this is a double whammy for women because most breast cancer occurs after menopause and estrogen is typically discouraged in women who have breast cancer. Estrogen seems to lower the risk of heart disease if started shortly after menopause. The removal of estrogen as a treatment option denies women the cardioprotective benefits of estrogen.

Until we find out the impact on heart disease of lower dosages of radiation in use today, this study provides women another important topic to discuss with her physician when considering treatment.

Because heart disease is often a silent disease in women, view the video interview I did with Dr. Puja Mehta of Ceders Sinai Medical Center about how you can know if you have heart disease – you may be surprised.

Find more information of this type in My Menopause Magazine, available for the iPad in the Apple Newsstand. Click here for your FREE issue.

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An W.
Ann W3 years ago

Keep in mind, since this study was done, the dosages of radiation women with breast cancer are exposed to have been lowered. Diagnostics and treatment options for women with breast cancer have improved; and this contributes to improved outcome.

A benefit of the study mentioned is generating awareness to patients and practitioners about monitoring women's cardiovascular risk factors.

The term ischemia means a decrease in the blood supply to a bodily organ, tissue or part caused by constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels.

Elisa Faulkner- Uriarte
Elisa F3 years ago

Thanks for keeping us informed.

Lydia Weissmuller Price

People are still dying despite all of the animals who have been tortured and murdered in labs. It is the very nature of life itself that it must end at some point. While we search for cures to common afflictions, we must never discard the sanctity of life. Sacrificing one life for another is not the answer. Do what you can to remain healthy and prolong your life, by all means. But, always strive for a life well-lived. Never sell your soul for a few extra days. Remember always that what you do in this life echoes in eternity. If it's not heart failure or cancer, something else will at some point take you. Everyday, love your kids, love your family and pets, and strive to leave a legacy of kindness behind you.

Ro H.
Ro H3 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

heather g.
heather g3 years ago

Can't undo the past advice I followed for many years.
Medical findings can be very difficult to deal with - many turn out to be wrong after many years.

Jillll G.
Jill G3 years ago

good to know what to look for and understand

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer L.
Jennifer L3 years ago

Keep persisting seems to be the message here. If you think something is wrong, don't let it go.

Beverly Hill
Beverly Hill3 years ago

I honestly can't say that this is very surprising.