Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of women, but as a woman, even if you know that, you’re probably too busy most days to think about it. But you should think about it, because what you do each day in part determines your risk for developing cardiovascular disease and suffering its life-threatening consequences. Cardiovascular disease develops over time, affecting your body in ways you might not notice until it’s too late. By thinking about it now, you can learn ways to reduce your risks, recognize the warning signs of a heart attack, and advocate to get the help you need. Your life or the life of someone you love may depend on it.
Here are some other facts about women and cardiovascular disease that may surprise you:
- One in three women over the age of 20 has some form of cardiovascular disease. It strikes women at younger ages than most people think, and the risk rises in middle age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the third most common cause of death among women ages 25 to 44 years old and two-thirds of women who have heart attacks never fully recover.
- Worldwide, cardiovascular disease is the single most common cause of death among women, regardless of race and ethnicity, and yet many women are still dangerously unaware that they are at risk, especially African American and Hispanic women. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, African American women ages 55 to 64 are twice as likely as white women to have a heart attack and 35 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease.
- More women have strokes than men. According to the American Stroke Association, each year more than 100,000 women under the age of 65 in the United States will have a stroke.
- Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attack in women. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, women who smoke are at risk of a heart attack 19 years earlier than those who don’t smoke.
- Roughly one third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure (hypertension), according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. After age 55, women are at increased risk of hypertension, a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.
- Two to three million women in the United States have coronary microvascular disease - a form of heart disease that is challenging to diagnose, and there are 90,000 new cases each year.
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WomenHeart Champion Marilyn Smedberg-Gobbett shares potentially life-saving information for women.
Where Cardiovascular Disease Strikes
Cardiovascular disease isn’t only about the heart. Women are affected by a range of cardiovascular diseases. Often, cardiovascular disease in one part of the body puts a woman at higher risk of cardiovascular disease elsewhere in the body. That is, if you have heart disease, you are also at greater risk of stroke, for example. The best way to fight back is to understand how cardiovascular disease forms and how you can control risk factors. Click on the links below for more information about heart disease, stroke, or peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Why ‘Women and Cardiovascular Disease’?
Traditionally, men have been the primary focus for cardiovascular disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. While disparities still exist, fortunately, medical science is making gains in understanding the differences between men and women when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Women can also be their own advocates and work to reduce disparities by:
- Striving to minimize their risk factors.
- Asking specific questions that can help them get the best possible treatment.
- Helping other women by participating in clinical trials to advance knowledge about how to best improve and save the lives of women with cardiovascular disease.
For more information on differences between women and men in cardiovascular disease see The Gender Gap in Cardiovascular Disease.