Understanding Heart Disease and Stroke in Women
- While some Americans still think of it as a “man’s disease,” cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease and stroke) is in fact the leading cause of mortality among women, ahead of all forms of cancer combined.
- Moreover, heart disease is often perceived as an “older woman’s” disease, and it is in fact the leading cause of death among women 65 and older. However, it also affects many younger women.
- Heart disease is the third leading cause of death among women aged 25-44, and the second leading cause of death among women 45 to 64.
- In 2007, the latest year for which data are available, approximately one in six female deaths was due to cardiovascular disease, compared to one in 30 female deaths from breast cancer.
- Studies show that aspirin therapy to reduce cardiac risk has different effects in women and men, in different age groups. Aspirin is recommended for men after age 45 to decrease heart attack risk, and recommended for women after age 55 to decrease stroke risk.
Ways to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and StrokeAs a first step, it is important to know if cardiovascular disease is present in your family history, as this can be very important in predicting risk. This is especially important if cardiovascular disease developed in a family member at a young age, under 55. If someone in your family has had heart disease you should inform your health care provider, who can provide information about risk-reduction strategies that can be tailored to your individual needs.
Regardless of the cardiovascular disease risk level, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these lifestyle modifications for all women:
- Stop smoking
- 30 minutes of physical activity most days
- Heart-healthy diet
- Weight maintenance/reduction
- Evaluation and treatment of depression
For more information on knowing and lowering your risks of heart disease and stroke:
- WHRY's informational pamphlet: Women & Cardiovascular Disease: What we don't know can hurt us