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Women and Heart Disease

Heart Disease -  Every Woman's Concern

You may know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. But you might be surprised to learn that it is also the leading cause of death in women. Heart disease accounts for more than 40 percent of all deaths in women each year.

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by becoming aware of your risk factors:

Age

  • You are a woman over 55 years old, or you have passed menopause or had your ovaries removed.

Family History

  • You have a close blood relative who had a heart attack before age 55 (if father or brother) or before age 65 (if mother or sister)

Smoking

  • Researchers found cigarette smoking was the most important individual risk factor.

Cholesterol Levels

  • Your total cholesterol level is 200 mg/dl or higher.                  
  • Your HDL ("good") cholesterol level is less than 50 mg/dl.                  
  • You don't know your total cholesterol or HDL levels.

Blood Pressure

  • Your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher or you have been told that your blood pressure is too high.                  
  • You don't know what your blood pressure is.

Exercise

  • You get less than a total of 30 minutes of physical activity on at least three days per week.

Body Weight

  • You are 20 pounds or more overweight.

Diabetes

  • You have diabetes or take medicine to control your blood sugar.

Medical History

  • You have coronary artery disease, or you have had a heart attack.                  
  • You have an abnormal heartbeat.

Warning Signs

 It is often harder to recognize the symptoms of heart disease in women than in men. A classic first symptom of heart disease in men is often pain or pressure in the center of the chest, often spreading to the shoulders. In women, the first symptom may be:

  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the arm, shoulder or back
  • Jaw pain
  •  Racing heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion

Take Charge of Your Heart Health

Make it a point to ask your doctor about the risks you face as a woman and the preventive measures you can take such as:

  • Learn more about your risk factors.                  
  • Reduce the risk factors you can control.                  
  • Learn to relax and find ways to deal with stress.                  
  • Know the warning signs of heart attack and don't delay in getting medical help.