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Our Services > Wellness > Health Tips > Heart Disease in Women

Heart Disease

Heart Disease in Women

The No. 1 killer of American women is not cancer, stroke or old age. It's heart disease. While sometimes considered a man's disease, consider these statistics:

  • Cardiovascular diseases cause one in three women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular disease.
  • 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and stroke, and the gap between men and women's survival continues to widen.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women versus men, and are often misunderstood - even by some physicians.

So what can women do to improve their health and their hearts? The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.

    For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, see CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat.

    If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC's Assessing Your Weight Web site.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.

    For more information, see CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.
  • Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.

    For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC's Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site.