Feature Archive

Women and Heart Disease

By Michele Bloomquist
WebMD Feature

May 22, 2000 -- To protect yourself from having a heart attack, you need to reduce your risk factors and know the signs to watch for, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA). Because coronary heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States, being a proactive patient may very well save your life.

The cholesterol-rich plaque that builds up on the walls of heart arteries -- and that leads to coronary heart disease and heart attacks -- starts to form in early childhood and builds over a lifetime. When blood can no longer squeeze through the plaque-narrowed artery or when high blood pressure causes the artery to burst, a heart attack occurs.

While you can change some risk factors for heart disease -- high blood pressure, poor diet, uncontrolled diabetes, and inactivity, for example -- there are others you can't, like genetics and age. The more risk factors you have -- if you're an overweight smoker with high blood pressure, for example -- the higher your chances of having a heart attack.

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