What You Need to Know About Heart Disease in Women
Did you know heart disease is the number one cause of death among women? Heart disease kills more women each year than all cancers combined, including breast cancer.
Both men and women have heart attacks, but more women who have heart attacks die from them. Women delay getting medical care after a heart attack more often than men do because:
- They don't know the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack – crushing chest pain is not the only symptom of a heart attack
- They may believe that only men and very old people have heart attacks
- They might be too busy with family needs and duties
- They may be depressed, resigned to suffering or even fatalistic about their health
Several risk factors contribute to a person's chance of developing heart disease.
Risk factors for women include:
- Early menopause (from natural causes or hysterectomy)
- Estrogen-plus-progestin treatment
- Race: women of color have higher rates of some risk factors
- Use of high-dose birth control pills, especially if the woman smokes
- Sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep)
While some risk factors cannot be changed, it's important to note that others such as life habits are within a person's control.
- Thirty-three percent (one in three) have one risk factor for heart disease that they can change
- Another 31 percent of women in this age group have two risk factors they can change
- Another 17 percent have three or more risk factors they can change
Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute , National Women's Health Information Center