Heart Disease

Heart disease (also called Cardiovascular disease) is a class of diseases that involve the heart, the blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins), or both.

Learn about heart disease symptoms, risk factors and prevention, as well as information on heart attack, heart failure, and heart healthy diets.

The major risk factors for heart disease include:


Smokers are two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a nonsmoking woman.

Having high blood pressure.

A higher blood pressure causes a person’s blood vessels to become tight and constricted, forcing the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body.

High blood pressure causes three of every five cases of heart failure in women and also can lead to stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.

Having high blood cholesterol. Cholesterol can build up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart, slowing down or blocking the flow of blood and oxygen to a person’s heart.

Having diabetes.

The risk of death from heart disease is about three times higher in women with diabetes.

Being overweight.

Carrying extra pounds makes controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol difficult and increases the risk of developing diabetes.

Being physically inactive.

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing diabetes.

Having a family history of heart disease.

Heart disease affects specific population groups differently.

Heart disease risk factors are higher among African American and Mexican American women than among white women of comparable socioeconomic status.

Among American Indians/Alaska Natives aged 18 years and older,

61.4 percent of women have one or more heart disease risk factors

(high blood pressure, current cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, obesity, or diabetes).

Asian/Pacific Islander women have a lower rate of heart disease than women of other minority groups, but heart disease is the second

leading cause of death within that group.

High blood pressure and smoking rates are more severe among African American women than all other groups of women.

A significant number of Hispanic women also are affected by the problems of smoking and obesity.

What Women Should Know:

The Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. BUT, women are somewhat more likely than men to have other warning signs, particularly shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back pain or jaw pain.

Article Index:

Heart disease is a modern malady

Before 1900, very few people died of heart disease. Since then, heart disease has become the number one killer in the United States.

An aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the aorta

An aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest and torso.

Aortic aneurysms work in two ways. The force of blood pumping can split the layers of the artery wall, allowing blood to leak in between them. This process is called a dissection. The aneurysm can burst completely, causing bleeding inside the body. This is called a rupture.

Calcium and Vitamin D Act Together to Prevent Colon Cancer Recurrence

Calcium prevents recurrence of colon cancer more effectively in people with higher levels of vitamin D than in people with lower levels, reports a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2003;95:1765?71).

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