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Women at High Risk
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One out of Three
If you are a woman, those are your chances of dying of heart disease or stroke.

What Can You Do?

Your odds of dying of breast cancer are 1 in 27.

Cardiovascular diseases affect more women than men

Heart attacks are generally more severe in women than in men.

Women are more likely to die of a heart attack, because they do not recognize and respond to its symptoms. This also means they don't get a second chance to change habits and reduce risks.

Women and their doctors still have many misperceptions about women's cardiovascular health.

Women's Heart Disease Ignored

Dr. Stephanie Coulter counsels a patient.
Dr. Coulter (left) counsels a patient on recognizing symptoms.
“Too often, women’s heart disease is ignored by primary care physicians, by emergency room staff and by women themselves,” says Stephanie Coulter, MD, Director of the Texas Heart Institute Center for Women's Heart and Vascular Health.

“Half of all women die of a cardiovascular condition, including heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and heart failure. When physicians fail to listen to women who suspect their symptoms are cardiac related, women should seek a second opinion before it’s too late.”

Risk Can Be Reduced

Although the average age at which women experience heart problems tends to be 10 years later than it is in men, and although the signs and symptoms of women’s heart problems tend to be different than those of men, the risk factors for heart disease are the same for both men and women. The risk factors for heart disease increase significantly in women at or around menopause.

The top five risk factors for heart disease are family history, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

To learn more about controlling and reducing your risk factors, see the Heart Disease Risk Factors topic in the Heart Information Center.

Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

Dr. Roberta Bogaev with patients.
Dr. Bogaev (center) discusses healthy lifestyles with mother / daughter patients. 
“Women can reduce their risk by leading a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet, exercising and avoiding smoking can dramatically reduce their risk. If they have high blood pressure, lowering their blood pressure and controlling their cholesterol can dramatically reduce their risk,” says Roberta Bogaev, MD, Medical Director of Heart Failure and Transplant at the Texas Heart Institute.

By avoiding heart attacks and recognizing the symptoms early, patients can reduce their risk of heart muscle damage. “Many times women have atypical symptoms. Instead of the typical chest pain, symptoms can present as jaw pain, arm pain or simply shortness of breath or nausea. Even more alarming, four out of five physicians are unaware that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women” says Dr. Bogaev.

What You Can Do

February is Heart Month and many campaigns are helping to raise community awareness. Take the opportunity to learn all you can about heart disease and its devastating effects on women. See the resources cited at the top of this page and below. Together, we can change the statistics.

See also on this site:

Women's Heart Health website.
Center for Women's Heart and Vascular Health

See also on other websites:

Visit the Heart Truth website.The Heart Truth is a national awareness campaign
sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Every year, a Friday in February is National Wear Red Day


Join the movement to fight heart disease.

Updated October 2013

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