Heart Disease Is the No. 1 Cause of Death for Women, But Many Lives Can Be Saved

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke are a woman’s greatest health threat, causing one in three deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. Fortunately, about 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and healthy lifestyle changes.

Heart disease affects the blood vessels and cardiovascular system. Numerous problems can result from this, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Heart disease and stroke can affect a woman at any age, making it vital for all women to understand their personal risk factors and family history. Women can also experience unique life events that can impact their risk, including pregnancy and menopause. Research also shows that stress may impact health, making it important for women to understand the mind-body connection and how to focus on improving both their physical health and mental well-being.

Here are 10 facts you need to know about women and cardiovascular disease, courtesy of the American Heart Association:

  1. Cardiovascular disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined and yet only 44 percent of women recognize that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat.
  2. Among females 20 years and older, nearly 45 percent are living with some form of cardiovascular disease and less than 50 percent of women entering pregnancy in the United States have good heart health.
  3. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of new moms and accounts for over on-third of maternal deaths. Black women have some of the highest maternal mortality rates.
  4. Overall, 10-20 percent of women will have a health issue during pregnancy, and high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes during pregnancy greatly increase a women’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
  5. Going through menopause does not cause cardiovascular disease, but the approach of menopause marks a point in midlife when women’s cardiovascular risk factors can accelerate, making increased focus on health during this pivotal life stage is crucial.
  6. Most cardiac and stroke events can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes, such as moving more, eating smart and managing blood pressure.
  7. 51.9 percent of high blood pressure deaths, otherwise known as hypertension or the “silent killer,” are in women, and out of all women, 57.6 percent of black females have hypertension — more than any other race or ethnicity.
  8. While there are an estimated 4.1 million female stroke survivors living today, approximately 57.5 percent of total stroke deaths are in women.
  9. Women are often less likely to receive bystander CPR because rescuers often fear accusations of inappropriate touching, sexual assault or injuring the victim.
  10. Women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, as well as in research. In fact, women occupy nearly half of all U.S. jobs (48 percent), but only 27 percent of jobs in STEM fields. Furthermore, only 38 percent of participants in clinical cardiovascular trials are women.

While there are many things that can put women at risk for heart disease and stroke, cardiovascular disease can be treated and prevented through education and care. In fact, studies show that health choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Here are a few lifestyle changes that can help women take charge of their heart health:

• Don’t smoke
• Manage your blood sugar
• Get your blood pressure under control
• Lower your cholesterol
• Know your family history
• Stay active
• Lose or manage your weight
• Eat healthy

The American Heart Association’s women’s initiative, called Go Red for Women, is a platform designed to increase awareness of women’s heart health and help women take charge of their own heart. Learn more about preventing and living with cardiovascular diseases.

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