Women and Heart Disease - Five Fast Facts

Heart disease doesn’t just affect men. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, as well as the number one cause of disability for women.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of heart disease. CAD is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries and is caused by the presence of cholesterol and plaque, resulting in the heart being unable to get the blood and oxygen it needs. CAD can lead to chest pain (angina), a heart attack, heart failure, and arrhythmia.

Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot forming and suddenly cutting off the blood supply. Blood clots are formed when platelets come in contact with plaque and continue to pile up until the clot fills the space within in the artery.

As women age, they are more likely to develop heart disease and the risk increases after the age of 55. This is largely due to the fact that most women under the age of 55 have not gone through menopause. After menopause, levels of estrogen in a woman’s body drop. Researchers believe estrogen has heart protecting qualities, which is why the onset of heart disease is generally 10 to 15 years later for women than men.

There are risk factors for heart disease you can control. They include smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, as well as poorly managed stress and anger. Positive lifestyle modifications can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease and prevent heart attacks and stroke. If you need help with any of these risk factors, talk to your physician.