Lower Your Risk for the Number 1 Killer of Women
Learn about heart disease and women and what you can do to keep a healthy heart.
February 3, 2023
The term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Get Informed: Facts on Women and Heart Disease
Despite an increase in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.1
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 314,186 women in 2020—or about 1 in every 5 female deaths.2 For Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian women, heart disease is second only to cancer as a cause of death.3
- About 1 in 16 women age 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease in the United States.4
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a man’s disease, almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States.
Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until you have other symptoms or emergencies, including:5
- Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath
- Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)
- Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins
What You Can Do for Heart Health
To lower your chances of getting heart disease, it’s important to:6
- Manage your stress levels. Find healthy ways to lower your stress levels. Learn more about coping with stress.
- Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Learn more about high blood pressure, including high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Check for diabetes. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.7 Learn more about diabetes, including gestational diabetes.
- Know your cholesterol status. Knowing your cholesterol status can help you stay in control of your health. Learn about getting your cholesterol checked and why it is important.
- Quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn about how to quit smoking.
- Be physically active. Try to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of physical activity each week. Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease. Learn more about physical activity.
- Choose healthy foods and drinks. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and eat fewer processed foods. Learn more about healthy eating.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink. Women of legal drinking age should either avoid alcohol or drink one or less alcoholic drink per day. Learn more about alcohol use.
Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and how a high blood pressure can increase the risk for heart disease.
Staying physically active is great way to reduce your risk for heart disease.
A collaboration by CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and Office of Women’s Health.
- Cushman, M, Shay, C, Howard, V, Jiménez, M, Lewey, J, McSweeney, J, … & American Heart Association. (2021). Ten-year differences in women’s awareness related to coronary heart disease: results of the 2019 American Heart Association National Survey: a special report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 143(7), e239-e248.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2019 on CDC Wonder Online Database, released in 2020. Data are from Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2019, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed Jan 7, 2021.
- Heron M. Deaths: Leading Causes for 2019. National Vital Statistics Reports.
- Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019;139:e1–e473.
- Heart disease in women. Accessed January 10, 2022.
- HHS, OWH. Heart disease prevention. 2015. Accessed January 10, 2022.
- HHS, OWH. Diabetes. Accessed January 10, 2022.