Narrator: This is Science Today. Over the last few decades, more women than men have died from heart disease each year and the gap continues to rise. Deborah Lindes, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco says there are many factors for this, including not being aware of lifestyle choices that may greatly affect risk. For example, within the first year of quitting smoking, heart disease risk is cut down by half and after five years a former smoker's risk of heart disease is equivalent to a person who has never smoked.
Lindes: And this is independent of how many cigarettes you smoked, how long you smoked, how old you are. So at any age, or at any amount of smoking, it's really worth working on quitting.
Narrator: Obesity and a lack of exercise are other risk factors for heart disease. But physical activity is not just beneficial for those at risk who are overweight.
Lindes: Even for people who have normal weight, normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol - physical inactivity increases your risk for heart disease just as much as having high blood pressure, high cholesterol. So, if you think you're sitting pretty because all your numbers look good - if you're a couch potato, you're a couch potato and you're at increased risk.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.