The most common misconception about women and heart disease is that women are at less risk for heart disease than men. The reality is that heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women—nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease and stroke than from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.
In addition, when women get heart disease it often acts quite differently than it does in men, so it is important that women understand the differences in risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
There are two types of risk factors for heart disease: risks that are beyond your control and risks that you can do something about. The risks that you can’t control are family history, race/ethnicity and age.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to take action on the six major causes of heart disease:
- Cigarette and tobacco smoke
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Overweight or obesity
Nine out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor—this means that even just one risk factor will raise your chances of having heart-related problems, and the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular diseases.
How to Live a More Heart Healthy Life
If you are at risk for heart disease or have been diagnosed with heart disease, there are lots of simple ways to protect your heart through healthy lifestyle choices and diet and exercise. The following are recommendations for preventing heart disease from the American Heart Association:
- Eat Heart Healthy foods low in saturated fat and trans fats
- Exercise Regularly
- Lose Weight
- Manage Your Stress Levels
- Quit Smoking
In addition, the key to early detection is to get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels screened regularly. Recommendations on frequency vary based on your age and risk factors. Talk to your provider or use the American Heart Association's "Heart Attack Risk Calculator."
American Heart Association
American Heart Association – Go Red for Women
WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease