Heart Disease

What is Heart Disease?

When you hear the term "heart disease," you may think, "That's a man's disease" or "Not my problem." But here is the truth, one in four women in the United States dies of heart disease, while one in 30 dies of breast cancer.

Coronary heart disease is often simply called heart disease. It is the main form of heart disease. It is a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to a heart attack. A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. Heart disease is one of several cardiovascular diseases, which are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system. Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), and rheumatic heart disease. Heart disease is a life long condition. Once you get it, you'll always have it. Many women die of complications from heart disease, or become permanently disabled.

What are the risk factors for Heart Disease?

An astonishing 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factor for heart disease. Having one or more risk factors dramatically increases a women's chance of developing heart disease because risk facts tend to worsen each other's effects. In fact, according to research complied by the NHLBI, having just one risk factor doubles your chance of developing heart disease.

Important risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about are:
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
Being overweight
Being physically inactive
Having a family history of early heart disease
Age (55 or older for women)

Some risk factors, such as age and family history of early heart disease, can't be changed. While certain risk factors cannot be changed, it is important to realize that you do have control over many others. Regardless of your age, background, or health status, you can lower your risk of heart disease and it doesn't have to be complicated.

How do I find out if I am at risk for heart disease?

The first step toward heart health is becoming aware of your own personal risk for heart disease. You will need to gather some information to create your personal "heart profile."

You and Your doctor: A Heart Healthy Partnership

A crucial step in determining your risk is to see your doctor for a thorough checkup. Many doctors don't routinely bring up the subject with women patients. Here are some tips for establishing good clear communication between you and your doctor:
Speak Up. Tell your doctor you want to keep your heart health and would like help in achieving that goal. Ask questions about your chances of developing heart disease and how you can lower you risk.
Keep tabs on treatment. If you already are being treated for heart disease or heart disease risk factors, ask your doctor to review your treatment plan with you.
Be open. When your doctor asks you questions, answer as honestly and fully as you can. While certain topics may seem quite personal, discussing then openly can help your doctor find out your chances of developing heart disease.
Keep it simple. If you don't understand something you doctor says, ask for an explanation in simple language. Be especially sure you understand how to take any medication you are given. Write down the doctor's instructions.