Cardiovascular Disease in Women | Cleveland Clinic

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 1 in 3 women identify cardiovascular disease as the greatest health problem facing women today. Most women think that cancer is the leading cause of death in women. But, cardiovascular disease is the single leading cause of death for women in America and claims the lives of more women than all forms of cancer combined.

What causes cardiovascular disease?

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 . 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 (coronary artery disease).

Without adequate blood, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and the vital nutrients it needs to work properly. This is called ischemia. Ischemia causes symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain or angina; and when one or more of the coronary arteries becomes completely blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle) can occur.