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?
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Preventing Heart Disease in Women

As more information is learned on the prevention of coronary artery disease, it becomes increasingly clear that women should be considered at similar risk as men, and should undergo equally as aggressive preventative measures. Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in women, accounting for 38% of deaths among women, according to the American Heart Association.

The accepted risk factors for coronary artery disease (lipid status, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and genetic profile) should be as aggressively pursued and modified in women as well as men. Every effort should be made to

  • lower LDL cholesterol (ideally below 70-80),
  • increase HDL cholesterol,
  • use whatever means to stop smoking,
  • and control blood pressure, especially in women with multiple risk factors.