Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart Disease and Stroke are the leading causes of death for women. More than half a million women in the United States die every year from heart disease and stroke.

African-American women are at an even greater risk. Their death rate from coronary heart disease is more than 35% higher than for Caucasian women, and the death rate from stroke is 71% higher. As women reach menopause the risk of heart attack rises significantly, and the rate of heart attacks for women equal that for men.

The good news is that heart disease and stroke are largely preventable. The following are some of the risk factors for heart disease that can be changed, treated or modified to lower your risk.

Sedentary Lifestyle

More than half of all American women are not physically active enough. Active women are less likely to develop heart disease than those who are inactive and overweight. If you are not active, get moving! For at lease 30-60 minutes, three times a week, walk, jog, swim, or any aerobic exercise.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and women who smoke have a much higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Second-hand smoke can also increase your risk. Even if you have smoked for many years, if you quit now, your risk of heart disease immediately drops.

Lower Your Cholesterol

A high level of cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for heart attack, and indirectly increases your risk of stroke.

High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and it has no symptoms so it is important to get your blood pressure checked when you see your physician. If you have high risk factors and a family history of heart disease, then you should talk to your doctor about how regularly it should be checked.

Being Overweight

If you have too much body fat, especially if a lot of the fat is located in your waist area, you are at a higher risk for health problems, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, Triglycerides, heart disease and stroke.

There are some other factors that may put you at high risk for heart disease, but are not changeable or preventable:

Increasing Age

The older you get, the more likely you are to develop heart disease or have a stroke. The loss of natural estrogen as women age may contribute to this higher risk.


African Americans women have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke than caucasian Americans women do.


A history of close family members with heart disease increases your risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Personal History

If you have had a heart attack, you are at a higher risk of having a second heart attack or stroke.

Of course, if you have any risk factors, or suspect that you might have heart disease, it is important that you see your doctor regularly to perform the appropriate tests and monitor your health.

Heart Disease - Are you at risk?

Heart disease kills more Women each year than all forms of cancer combined.

Are you at risk?

  1. Answer Yes or No to these questions.
  2. If you answer YES to 3 or more of the questions below, you may be at risk of heart disease and you should consult a health care practitioner.
Your father or brother under age 55 or our mother or sister under age 65 has had a heart attack, stroke, angioplasty or bypass surgery
You are over 55 years old. (After age 65, the death rate increases sharply for women).
Do you have a history of high blood pressure?
Do you smoke or you are exposed to secondhand smoke regualrly?
Do not exercise for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, like taking a brisk walk, on most days
Are you 20 pounds or more overweight?
Do you have a high demand/low control job with sustained high levels of stress?
Does your daily diet contain fairly high amounts of fats and sugar?
Do you have 2 or more drinks every day?
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