Women & Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women. Unfortunately, women’s heart attacks don’t always show the classic signs, such as chest pain. Watch for these signs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
  • Dizziness
  • Back and jaw pain
  • Heartburn that won’t go away

Here are Some Tips for Lowering Your Risk of Heart Disease:

  • Don’t smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Watch your blood pressure. Get your blood pressure checked every two years. Keep your blood pressure below 120/80. Here’s how:
    • Lose excess weight.
    • Cut down or cut out drinking alcohol.
    • Eat less salt.
    • Get enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium in your diet.
    • Take any blood pressure medicine your doctor prescribes.
  • Watch your cholesterol. Get your cholesterol checked every five years, more often if you have problems.
    • A total cholesterol under 200 is best.
    • Your “good” cholesterol (HDL) should be at least 50 for women and 40 for men. Ideal is 60 or more.
    • Your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) should be below 130. Ideal is 100 or lower.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This can even be 10 minutes at a time. (Exercise for an hour if you need to lose weight.)
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Eat less fat. Keep fat down to 25% or less of your daily calories.
  • Learn how to prevent or manage stress.
  • Prevent or control diabetes. Prevent diabetes with the eating and exercise tips above. If you already have diabetes ask your doctor how to control it.
  • Decide if you should stop taking birth control pills. You have a higher risk of heart disease if you take the pill and smoke, have high blood pressure, and are over 35.

The information in this publication is meant to complement the advice of your health-care providers, not to replace it. Before making any major changes in your medications, diet, or exercise, talk to your doctor. Articles written by outside contributors have not been reviewed by the Hope Health Medical Advisory Board.

Medical Editor: William J. Mayer, MD, MPH

Medical Advisory Board: Victor J. Barry, DDS; Renee Belfor, RD; Kenneth Holtyn, MS; Robert H. Knopp, MD; Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP; Scott Musial, BS, MS, RPh; Vicki Rackner, MD, FACS; Lester R. Sauvage, MD; Wallace Wilkins, PhD

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© by the Hope Heart Institute, Seattle, WA Institute Founder: Lester R. Sauvage, MD; President: Mark Nudelman