Facts about women and heart health

This tip is from
Kelly Epps, MD
Medical Director of Inova's
Women's Cardiovascular Program Dr. Kelly Epps

According to surveys, not many women think heart disease is their greatest health threat. Unfortunately, over one-third of the women who die in the U.S. each year die of heart disease. In fact, more women die of heart disease each year than breast cancer, yet heart disease and related risk factors are often missed in women.

Men are more likely develop the “classic” narrowing or blockage in the coronary arteries, while women might not develop that yet still have reduced blood flow to the heart or suffer a heart attack.

Get the facts!

  • Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, causing one in three deaths each year – about one death every minute.
  • More than one in three women has some form of heart disease.
  • Among females age 20 and older between 2013 and 2016, 44.7% had some form of cardiovascular disease.
  • The risk of coronary artery disease triples after menopause.
  • 64 percent of women who die suddenly from coronary artery disease had no previous symptoms.

The risk of heart attack and stroke increases with age. That’s especially true after menopause. But you should start protecting yourself from heart disease early. The buildup of plaque in your arteries—called atherosclerosis—can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Atherosclerosis can start as early as your teens and 20s.

How can I reduce my risk? double arrow

Check your heart disease risk

Talk with your healthcare provider about your cholesterol and blood pressure and have both checked. The higher either of them is, the greater your risk for heart disease or heart attack. To check cholesterol, a blood test is done, usually after fasting. This test is done to measure the fats in your blood. It can tell you:

  • Your total cholesterol
  • LDL ("bad") cholesterol
  • HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • Triglycerides, another form of fat in the blood

But your cholesterol is only part of it. Your healthcare provider will look at your medical history. He or she will also ask about your family history of heart disease. This information will help assess your personal risk for the disease.

Take our online heart risk assessment double arrow

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PODCAST: Listen to Dr. Epps and Dr. Tehrani discuss how heart disease differs for Men and Women double arrow


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