Women, Take Charge of Your Heart
You may think of it as a man's disease, but more women than men die of heart disease. Learn more about your risks.

powered by healthline

Average Ratings

Picture of woman holding an apple Women, Take Charge of Your Heart

Heart disease. Isn't that a man's problem? Many women mistakenly think so. But did you know that heart disease and stroke are the number one killers of American women?

Heart disease kills 32 percent of American women. In the United States, almost twice as many women die from heart disease and stroke as from all types of cancer combined. But most women don't understand their risk.

Risk factors for heart disease
Some risk factors can't be controlled, such as:

  • Family history. Heart disease can be inherited.
  • Ethnicity. Women of African American, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander descent are more prone to heart disease than white women.

Risk factors that can be controlled include:

  • Smoking. This is a major cause of heart disease and stroke among women. Women who smoke and use birth control pills are at higher risk than nonsmokers who take the pill.
  • High blood pressure. This is the most important risk factor for stroke. Women are at increased risk for high blood pressure if they are overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure, or take birth control pills.
  • High cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eating foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol can help lower your risks.
  • Diabetes. Women with this condition are 2 to 3 times more likely to have heart attacks than other women.
  • Lack of exercise. Even moderate physical activity can lower your risks.
  • Being overweight. Too much fat, especially in the waist area, can cause heart disease, stroke, and many other health problems.
  • Drinking alcohol excessively. Women should limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day.

Signs of heart problems
Many women don't recognize when they are having a heart attack. They may not have the classic symptoms, such as radiating chest pain. Sudden or unusual fatigue or unusual shortness of breath may be signs of heart disease in some women, but they are not always recognized.

Other possible symptoms of a heart attack to look for include:

  • Pressure, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and returns
  • Pain that spreads into the shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or back
  • Anxiety, weakness, or fatigue
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Sweaty skin and paleness
  • Fainting, nausea, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness

Call 9-1-1 right away if you think you may be having a heart attack.

Take charge of your health
Women are not powerless when it comes to preventing cardiovascular problems. In fact, cutting the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke can be as simple as taking a brisk daily walk around the park. Always check with your doctor first, though, before you increase your activity level. Even a modest amount of physical activity can make a big difference. It also helps control cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity.

By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer
Created on 05/18/2000
Updated on 06/15/2011
Sources:
  • National Women's Health Information Center. Heart disease.
  • American Heart Association. Women, heart disease, and stroke.
  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Smoking and your heart.
  • American Heart Association. High blood pressure and women.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
Top of page
General Drug Tools
General Drug Tools view all tools
Tools for
Healthy Living
Tools for Healthy Living view all tools
Search Tools
Search Tools view all tools
Insurance Plan Tools
Insurance Plan Tools view all tools

What is a reference number?

When you register on this site, you are assigned a reference number. This number contains your profile information and helps UnitedHealthcare identify you when you come back to the site.

If you searched for a plan on this site in a previous session, you might already have a reference number. This number will contain any information you saved about plans and prescription drugs. To use that reference number, click on the "Change or view saved information" link below.

You can retrieve information from previous visits to this site, such as saved drug lists and Plan Selector information.