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Healthy Living

Women and Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is a woman's concern. Every woman's concern. One in ten American women 45 to 64 years of age has some form of heart disease, and this increases to one in five women over 65. Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. In addition, 1.6 million women have had a stroke, and 90,000 women die of stroke each year. This fact sheet tells you what kinds of habits and health conditions increase the chances of developing these diseases--and how you can help keep your heart healthy.

What Are These Diseases?

Both heart disease and stroke are known as cardiovascular diseases, which are disorders of the heart and blood vessel system. Coronary heart disease--the main subject of this fact sheet--is a disease of the blood vessels of the heart that causes heart attacks. A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. A stroke occurs when not enough blood gets to the brain, or in some cases, from bleeding in the brain. Some other cardiovascular diseases are high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), and rheumatic heart disease.

Who Gets Cardiovascular Diseases?

Some women have more "risk factors" for cardiovascular diseases than others. Risk factors are habits or traits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. Some risk factors for heart-related problems cannot be changed, but many others can be.

The three biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease that you can do something about are cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol. Other risk factors, such as overweight and diabetes, also are conditions you have some control over. Even just one risk factor will raise your chances of having heart-related problems. But the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular diseases--and the more concerned you should be about protecting your heart health.

Major Risk Factors. . .

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