Cardiovascular Disease in Women

By February 25, 2022Health Tips
February is American Heart Month.  Since 1964, this is an annual event designated to encourage Americans to focus on their heart health.  Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading cause of death globally.  Many people incorrectly think that heart and vascular disease is something that only affects men.  Women are often unaware that they too are at risk for heart disease.
Cardiovascular Disease in WomenHow common is cardiovascular disease in women?
  • Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women.
  • It causes more deaths in women than all forms of cancer combined!
  • One of every 3 deaths in women each year is caused by cardiovascular disease.
Important facts about cardiovascular disease in women:
  • Only 44% of women recognize that cardiovascular disease is their biggest health risk.
  • Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of new mothers and accounts for over one third of maternal deaths.
  • Black women have some of the highest maternal mortality rates related to cardiovascular disease.
  • Most cardiovascular events, like heart attacks and strokes, can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes, like moving more, healthier eating, and managing blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Going through menopause does not cause cardiovascular disease, but menopause does mark a point in life when women’s cardiovascular risk can accelerate.  This makes increased focus during this stage of life very important to women.
  • Almost 60% of deaths from high blood pressure are in women.  Out of all women, over 57% of black women have high blood pressure, more than any other race or ethnicity.
  • Nearly 60% of total stroke deaths are in women.
  • Women are often less likely to receive CPR from bystanders.  This may be because rescuers are less likely to believe a woman has had a heart attack, or because they fear accusations of inappropriate contact or sexual assault, or a combination of both.
Is cardiovascular disease in women linked to dementia?
Recent research indicates that women who have cardiovascular disease also have a significantly higher incidence of thinking and memory problems than those without cardiovascular disease.
Regardless of whether women had heart disease, those women with high blood pressure and diabetes also had a higher risk of decline in brain function.
What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women?
Just like men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort.  If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital right away.  Here are the signs and symptoms to watch for:
  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest, lasting more than a few minutes, or coming and going over a period of time
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, which may happen with or without chest pain
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness
  • Women are somewhat more likely than men to have symptoms of shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea/vomiting.
What are the signs and symptoms of stroke?
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, particularly on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding what it being said to you
  • Sudden trouble with vision, like blurry vision or even blindness in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Next week we will talk more about what you can do to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you have any questions about cardiovascular disease, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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