The Heart Truth - Lower Heart Disease Risk
The Heart Truth - Lower Heart Disease Risk

What is Heart Disease?

When you hear the term “heart disease,” you may think, “That’s a man’s disease” or “Not my problem.” But here is The Heart Truth®: one in four women in the United States dies of heart disease, while one in 30 dies of breast cancer. If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem. Learn more about heart disease.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

An astonishing 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Having one or more risk factors dramatically increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease because risk factors tend to worsen each other’s effects. In fact, according to research compiled by the NHLBI, having just one risk factor doubles your chance of developing heart disease.

Whatever a woman’s age, she needs to take action to protect her heart health. Heart disease can begin early, even in the teen years, and women in their 20s and 30s need to take action to reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Yet among U.S. women ages 18 and older, 17 percent are current smokers. Among women ages 20 and older, 64 are overweight (BMI of 25 or greater), 27 percent have hypertension, and 45 percent have high cholesterol. African American and Hispanic women, in particular, have higher rates of some risk factors for heart disease and are disproportionately affected by the disease compared to white women. More than 80 percent of midlife African American women are overweight or obese, 53 percent have hypertension, and 11 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes. Eighty percent of Hispanic women ages 20 and older are overweight or obese, and 15 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes.

To learn more, read about heart disease risk factors or watch The Heart Truth Heart Attack Risk Factors video, which address the two types of risk factors associated with heart attacks.

How Do I Find Out if I Am at Risk for Heart Disease?

Some women believe that doing just one healthy thing will take care of all their heart disease risk. For example, they may think that if they walk or swim regularly, they can still smoke and stay fairly healthy. This is wrong. To protect your heart, it is vital to make changes that address each risk factor you have. Find out how to lower heart disease risk.

A damaged heart can damage your life by interfering with enjoyable activities and even your ability to do simple things, such as taking a walk or climbing steps. Heart disease cannot be “cured.” It is a lifelong condition—once you get it, you’ll always have it.

Fortunately, it’s a problem you can do something about. Find out your risk for heart disease and take steps to prevent and control it. Talk to your doctor to get more answers. Start taking action today to protect your heart. Heart disease is preventable—by making healthy lifestyle changes and taking steps to manage risk factors, women can reduce their risk for heart disease. Visit The Heart Truth tools and resources.

Learn More About Heart Disease

To learn more about heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders, visit the NHLBI Health Topics Website.

Last Reviewed: January 2017

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