Many women worry about breast cancer, not heart disease. However, 1 in 4 women in the U.S. dies of heart disease. By comparison, 1 in 30 dies of breast cancer.

That’s why, as a woman, it’s important to identify factors that can affect your heart disease risk. Even if you have just one risk factor, your chance of developing heart disease doubles. Additional risk factors increase your risk even more.

The factors that go into heart disease are smoking, as it’s important not to smoke. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can lead to coronary artery disease as well, so exercise and being active are both very important. And then diet is another modifiable factor, certainly eating heart-healthy food that’s low in cholesterol and salt. 

Harsh Jain, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo

These are some heart disease risk factors for both men and women:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Family history

Additional risk factors that are unique to women include:

  • Early menopause
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Migraines with aura
  • Some autoimmune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)

To Find a Heart Specialist Near You
Call (716) 923-7153

To Find a Heart Specialist Near You Call (716) 9237153

You need to be proactive about your heart health. By knowing your risks, you are better able to determine what you need to do to reduce your risk and keep your heart healthier. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as your age, family history and menopause. But you can reduce many heart disease risk factors by making positive lifestyle changes or taking medication, if necessary. For example, if you know you have high blood pressure, losing weight, exercising more or reducing your sodium intake may help lower your blood pressure. Some people need to take medication to keep blood pressure under control even if they follow a healthy lifestyle.

Not all primary care doctors talk with women regularly about heart disease, so it may be up to you to start a conversation with your doctor about your risks for heart disease and what you can do to help lower your risk.