Heart disease can damage your coronary arteries, heart function or heart rhythms. Because heart disease affects more women than all forms of cancer combined, it's important to understand that:
- Women over age 55 are most at risk for heart disease. And women produce less estrogen during and after menopause, which can cause high cholesterol, high blood pressure and weight gain.
- Having a family member with heart disease increases your risk.
- Some ethnic groups, including African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans, are more likely to get heart disease.
Women and Heart Disease
The facts about cardiovascular disease in women may sound scary. But there are plenty of things you can do to protect your heart health.
Many women believe breast cancer is their biggest health threat. But, heart disease affects more women than all forms of cancer combined. One in three women will die of heart disease. It's a lifelong condition that can't be cured. But, it can be prevented.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease includes many conditions that affect the heart and its blood vessels such as:
- Coronary artery disease. Blood flow to the heart is decreased when arteries become hard and narrow due to fatty cholesterol deposits. This can lead to chest pain or discomfort (angina), or a heart attack if an artery becomes blocked.
- Heart failure. Other organs may not get enough blood when the heart can't pump as well as it should. This can cause shortness of breath, extreme tiredness and swelling in the feet, ankles and legs.
- Heart arrhythmia. Small changes to the beat of the heart are normally harmless. But, if you have flutters with symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath, call 911 immediately.
See Learning from WISE Women Finding Heart Disease in Women, and Preventing Heart Disease.
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