Cardiovascular disease is NOT just a man's disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women over age 25 in the United States, regardless of race or ethnicity. The death rate from cardiovascular diseases has decreased among men, but continues to increase in women.

Unfortunately, only 56 percent of women identify cardiovascular disease as the greatest health problem facing women today. Most women think that breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women. But, cardiovascular disease is the single leading cause of death for women in America and most developed countries, and claims the lives of more women than all forms of cancer combined.

Women and Cardiovascular Disease Facts

Source: American Heart Association

  • There are currently eight million American women living with heart disease.
  • One in four American women dies from cardiovascular disease: It claims the lives of nearly 300,000 women each year. That's about one death every 80 seconds.
  • Cardiovascular disease is a particularly important problem among minority women. The death rate due to cardiovascular disease is higher in African American and Hispanic women than in Caucasian women.
  • Less women than men survive a heart attack. This is true also for women at one year and five years after a heart attack. 
  • Sixty-four percent of women (2/3) who die suddenly because of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
  • Women are less likely to receive aggressive diagnosis and treatment for cardiovascular disease

What causes cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular Disease with Women

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term that includes a variety of heart and blood vessel conditions, such as coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, vascular disease, aorta disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart rhythms, congenital heart disease and many other heart and blood vessel conditions.

The most common cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis (sometimes called "hardening" or "clogging" of the arteries). Atherosclerosis is the build-up of cholesterol and fatty deposits (called plaque) on the inner walls of the arteries that restricts blood flow to the heart.

Without adequate blood, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and the vital nutrients it needs to work properly. This can cause chest pain called angina. When one or more of the coronary arteries becomes blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle) can occur.

Ischemia is a condition that occurs when the narrowed coronary artery reaches a point where it cannot supply enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the heart's needs.