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What’s the No. 1 health risk for women?

What’s the No. 1 health risk for women?

Know what it is — and how you can help protect yourself

It’s a truth that needs facing: Every year, more women in the U.S. die of heart disease than of all types of cancer combined — breast, lung, colorectal, etc., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In spite of this, many women don’t even realize that their hearts are at risk.

Here’s a two-step approach you can take to help fight back against the No. 1 health threat to women:

1. Be seen and screened

Your doctor can test you for — and help you manage — potential heart risks, including:

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Poor cholesterol levels

Your body needs some cholesterol. But if you have too much in your blood, it can build up in the walls of your arteries — and trigger a heart attack. A simple blood test can reveal your numbers.  

Excess Weight Too many pounds — particularly if you have belly fat — can put extra strain on your heart. See “What’s a healthy weight for you?”
High blood pressure

Among other things, this makes your heart work harder. The only way to know if your pressure is too high is to have it tested.


People with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease — and may develop heart problems at a younger age. Your doctor can test your blood sugar level to see if it’s in a healthy range.

Women who smoke have a much higher risk of developing heart disease than men who do. And if you take oral contraceptives and use cigarettes, you raise your risk for a heart attack even more.

2. Focus on everyday habits

According to experts, healthy choices can equal lives saved every day. In addition to seeing your doctor and knowing your numbers and risks, make these heart-friendly changes:

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Eat for your heart’s content.

That means choosing veggies, fruit, skinless poultry, fish, unsalted nuts, legumes, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Cut back on foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty cuts of meat, as well as those high in sodium, sugar and trans fat. 

Move more, exercise, repeat.  Regular exercise — at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week — helps keep your ticker strong.* Staying active can also be a key to weight control. It helps keep other risks in check too. 

Remember: It’s not about being perfect each day. Aim to make small changes at first. Then build on your progress. Your efforts will surely be heartfelt. 

What to do next

Learn the signs of heart attack with this interactive infographic. Acting fast could save your life — or someone else’s. If you suspect a heart attack, don’t wait. Call 911 right away. 

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