Heart Disease in Women

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Heart disease in women facts

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  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.
  • An estimated 90% of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
  • Heart attack symptoms can be different for women than for men.
  • Younger women with heart disease are more likely to die than men of the same age with heart disease. It is especially important for women and their doctors to be aware of early risk detection for primary prevention.
  • Despite being the #1 killer, only 13% of women surveyed by the American Heart Association (AHA) thought heart disease was their biggest health risk. Awareness may be a barrier to timely assessment and treatment.
  • Only 6% of Fellows of the American College of Cardiology (FACC cardiologists) are women.
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be prevented and reversed with lifestyle changes.

What is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?

Cardiovascular disease includes a large number of unique conditions that can affect not only the heart but also the blood vessels throughout the body including those in the brain (stroke) and extremities (peripheral artery disease). Within the heart, disease can affect the physical structure including the valves (for example, congenital mitral valve prolapse or rheumatic heart disease caused by strep infections) or the muscle wall (for example, cardiomyopathy or congestive heart failure). Cardiovascular disease also includes conditions of vascular function (for example, endothelial dysfunction, angina, or hypertension), inflammation (for example, endo- or myocarditis), or the electrical regulation of the heartbeat (for example, arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2014

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Heart Disease in Women - Symptoms Question: What kind of heart disease symptoms do you experience as a woman?
Heart Disease in Women - Statistics Question: Are you surprised by the statistics about heart disease in women?
Heart Disease in Women - Facts Question: Are you surprised to know the facts about heart disease in women?
Heart Disease in Women - Prevention Question: What are you doing to prevent heart disease as a woman?

Heart Disease Treatment in Women

In 2004, for the first time, female-specific guidelines were developed by the American Heart Association (AHA) in recognition of the gender differences in both the mechanisms and presentation of cardiovascular disease. In 2011, the guidelines were updated and, also for the first time, the AHA discussed the characteristics of "ideal cardiovascular health." Ideal cardiovascular health includes:

  • absence of clinical CVD
  • ideal levels of total cholesterol (<200 mg/dL)
  • ideal fasting blood glucose (<100 mg/dL)
  • lean body mass index (<25 kg/m2)
  • abstinence from smoking
  • regular physical activity at recommended levels
  • consumption of a healthy eating pattern such as a plant-based Mediterranean diet