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Women and Heart Disease: Know Your Risk, Protect Your Heart

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Heart disease is often thought of as a health problem for men, but more women die of heart disease each year, killing approximately one woman every three minutes. An estimated 42 million American women live with Heart Disease, but many are unaware of the danger they face.

Heart or cardiovascular disease is any disorder that affects the heart's ability to function normally. Types of heart disease are coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and valvular disease.

Less Obvious Chest Pain Symptoms

It is important for women to know the warning signs of heart disease because these symptoms are likely to be different from those experienced by men. Women may experience common symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath, but also have less obvious symptoms including:

  • Discomfort in the back, shoulders, arms, stomach, jaw, neck or throat
  • Generalized pressure in the chest
  • Indigestion
  • Lightheaded
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Unexplained fatigue

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Once heart disease develops, it’s a lifelong condition that will gradually worsen unless lifestyle changes are made. Fortunately, women may be able to lower heart disease risk by more than 80 percent by making healthy lifestyle choices. These include:

  • Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Following a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Finding ways to cope with stress.
  • Managing high blood pressure.
  • Knowing your family history and getting tested for diabetes.
  • Lowering total cholesterol to less than 200 mg/dL.
  • Not smoking and limiting alcohol.

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