Food & DrinkTips for preventing heart disease in women

Tips for preventing heart disease in women


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more women die from heart disease than from any other cause—approximately one in five American women.

You can take steps now to reduce your risk. Resources from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can help women of all ages learn how to safely use FDA-approved drugs and devices to prevent and treat heart disease.

The FDA offers fact sheets, videos, and other online tools to educate not only about heart disease, but also about conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease.

The FDA also offers the Heart Health page to connect women with the resources they need to support heart-healthy living. Watch this educational video from the FDA’s Office on Women’s Health to learn more about cardiovascular disease and women’s heart health. The video is part of an initiative to share knowledge and news about women’s health (KNOWH).

“Many women don’t realize they are at risk for heart disease. Understanding that women may have unique risk factors and may have atypical symptoms is critical to fighting heart disease in women,” said Dr. Kaveeta Vasisht, FDA Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health.

The risk of heart disease increases for everyone as we get older. For women, the risk increases after menopause, but younger women can also develop heart disease.

Here are some tips to reduce your risk and make informed decisions about your health. Even small changes can help.

8 Tips to Reduce Your Risk

1. Know your risk factors. Nine out of ten women have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Risk factors include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • to smoke
  • family history of premature heart disease

Obesity also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and prediabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease. Except for family history, you can change your other risk factors to lower your risk of heart disease.

2. Manage your current health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Talk to your healthcare provider to confirm the best treatment plan.

3. Recognize the symptoms of a heart attack in women and call 9-1-1 if necessary. Keep in mind that symptoms in women may be the same or different from those in men.

Symptoms may include:

  • pain or a feeling of tightness in the chest, arms, neck, jaw, back, or abdomen
  • difficulty breathing
  • nausea/vomiting
  • dizziness
  • extreme fatigue
  • cold sweat

As in men, the most common symptom of a heart attack in women is chest discomfort. But you can have a heart attack without chest pain or pressure. And women are more likely than men to have other symptoms, such as back pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, indigestion, and nausea/vomiting.

If you have these symptoms and suspect you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1. Call even if you are not sure; could save your life.

4. Get regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight. You don’t have to do all the activity at once and you don’t have to go to the gym.

Walking can be an easy way to start. Talk to your health care provider about the amount of activity that is right for you.

5. Choose heart-healthy foods. For example, you can eat fruits and vegetables at every meal, limit saturated fats and added sugars, and eat more whole grains. Choose the least fatty cuts of meat available and prepare them in a healthy way.

The up-to-date Nutrition Facts label can provide you with key information about the packaged foods you eat. It includes details about serving sizes and sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. You can check with your healthcare provider to confirm the most appropriate food options for you.

6. Keep in mind that daily aspirin use is not right for everyone. Talk to a health care provider before using aspirin to prevent heart attacks.

7. If you smoke, try to quit. See How Smoking Affects Heart Health and learn more about medicines to help you quit smoking.

8. Talk to your health care provider to see if you can participate in a clinical trial of a heart drug or procedure. A clinical trial is a research study involving human volunteers. Visit the FDA’s Women in Clinical Studies page for more information.

Menopause and hormone therapy

Menopause does not cause heart disease. But the decline in estrogen after menopause may be one of several factors that increase the risk of heart disease.

Other risks, such as weight gain, may also increase as you approach the age of menopause.

Hormone therapy can be used to treat some of the problems women have during menopause. However, the FDA has not approved any estrogen replacement therapy for reducing heart disease. Learn more about menopause and hormones here.

Make a plan and put it into practice

Work with your healthcare provider to make a plan for your heart health. Regardless of the routine you choose, make a list of your medications and supplements and bring it to all your appointments. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

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