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Women and Heart Disease

Woman wearing red jacket and runningHeart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. February is American Heart Month. On National Wear Red Day, Friday, February 6, 2015, help raise awareness about heart disease in women.

Get Informed: Facts on Women and Heart Disease

  1. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing nearly 422,000 each year.
  2. Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a "man's disease," around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Following a heart attack, approximately 1 in 4 women will die within the first year, compared to 1 in 5 men.
  3. Some conditions and lifestyle choices increase a person's chance for heart disease, including diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.
  4. Among women, black women are at highest risk of dying early from heart disease and stroke followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, White, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander women.
  5. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol and not smoking will reduce your chances for heart disease.

Symptoms

While some women have no symptoms of heart disease, others may experience heavy sharp chest pain or discomfort, pain in the neck/jaw/throat, or pain in the upper abdomen or back. Sometimes heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until a woman has signs or symptoms including:

  • Heart Attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
  • Heart Failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen.
  • Stroke: Sudden weakness, paralysis (inability to move) or numbness of the face/arms/legs, especially on one side of the body. Other symptoms may include: confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness, or sudden and severe headache.

Healthy Hearts

Heart disease is largely preventable. Listen to CDC's Dr. Bowman discuss ways to prevent heart problems. [00:04:06 minutes]

Stethoscope with plastic heart

What You Can Do For Heart Health

You can lower your chance of heart disease and heart attack by taking simple steps.

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be active. Exercise regularly.
  • Be smokefree. If you are ready to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569 for Spanish speakers) for free resources, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to other resources where you live.
  • Limit alcohol use. See your health care provider for a checkup, especially if you have any risk factors or symptoms.
  • Talk to your health care provider and ask questions to better understand your health.
  • Know your family history. There may be factors that could increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Manage any medical condition you might have. Learn the ABCS of health. Keep them in mind every day and especially when you talk to your health provider:
    • Appropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it
    • Blood pressure control
    • Cholesterol management
    • Smoking cessation
  • Page last reviewed: February 2, 2015
  • Page last updated: February 2, 2015
  • Content source:
    • CDC Office of Women's Health
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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