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Women & Heart Disease

Heart disease isn't just a man's disease. Heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are devastating to women, too. In fact, coronary heart disease, which causes heart attack, is the leading cause of death for women.

What are the risk factors for heart disease and stroke?

  • Increasing age: The loss of natural estrogen as women age may contribute to higher risk after menopause.

  • Sex (Gender): Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women, and they have attacks earlier in life. Overall, the incidence and prevalence of stroke are about equal for men and women. However, more than half of total stroke deaths occurs in women.

  • Heredity (family history): Both women and men are more likely to develop heart disease or stroke if their close blood relatives have had them.

  • Previous heart attack or stroke or TIA: Women who've had a heart attack are at higher risk of having a second heart attack or a stroke. Women who've had a stroke are at much higher risk of having another one or having a heart attack. A transient ischemic attack (TIA or "mini-stroke") also is a risk factor and predictor of stroke.

Most risk factors can be modified, treated or controlled by focusing on lifestyle habits and taking medicine, if needed.

  • Tobacco smoke

  • High blood cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Physical inactivity

  • Obesity and overweight

  • Diabetes mellitus

What other factors contribute to the risk of heart disease and stroke in women?

  • Menopause and estrogen loss

  • Birth control pills

  • High triglyceride

  • Excessive alcohol intake

  • Individual response to stress

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