Women & Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. Of the 1 million people who die of cardiovascular diseases, 53% are women; and almost one in three women will die of heart disease or stroke. In fact, more women die of heart disease each year than the next 7 causes of death combined. Among women, nine heart disease deaths occur for every one breast cancer death. However, women typically perceive breast cancer as their most serious health threat,

Women often present with atypical symptoms:

Men’s symptoms

  • Sub-sternal chest pain or pressure
  • Pain down left arm and shoulder
  • Weakness

Women’s Symptoms

  • Pain in chest, upper back, jaw or neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Flu-like symptoms: nausea or vomiting, cold sweats
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Feelings of anxiety, loss of appetite, malaise

Risk factors help predict who is at rist to develop coronary artery disease

  • Family History: Women with a history of premature heart disease among parents or siblings are at higher risk
  • Age: As women grow older, the chance of developing heart disease increases (especially after the onset of menopause)
  • Race: African-American women have a higher risk of death from heart disease than white women

Estrogen and menopause may be related to heart disease

  • Estrogen increases production of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
  • As estrogen decreases, women experience lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
  • Women will live one third of their lives after menopause
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) should not be used for the purpose of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in women

How to lower your risk of heart diesase:

  • Know your risk factors
  • Stop smoking
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a nutritious diet low in saturated fats
  • Monitor and manage blood pressure and diabetes
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Learn stress management skills
  • Maintain social relationships
  • Know the warning signs for heart attack and stroke