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What Every Woman Should Know About Preventing Heart Disease

Despite today’s medical advancements, heart disease still lurks as the main cause of death. It surprises most people to know that heart disease impacts men and women differently. Learning the facts about women and heart disease can empower you to take control of your health and make the right changes to promote heart health.

Women and heart disease

At West Coast Medicine & Cardiology, Dr. Rajesh Sam Suri and his team are dedicated to helping you keep your heart as healthy as possible. The more you know about heart disease, the more you’re empowered to make heart-healthy changes that also improve your overall well-being.

Only about half of women know that women are far more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. More than 300,000 women die of heart disease each year. Regular checkups with a heart specialist play a preventive role in heart health.

While we can treat heart disease once it develops, the emphasis is on preventing heart disease in the first place.

Understanding your risk

Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, but women are not only at risk for heart disease, but it kills slightly more women than men. When surveyed about the greatest health risk, close to 90% of women listed something other than heart disease as their greatest health risk. 

It’s important to know that heart disease is the single greatest cause of death in the United States.

Differences in heart disease risk in women compared with men

Many studies on heart disease have been conducted on men, and these findings have mostly shaped public thoughts surrounding heart disease. However, we now know that there are some sex differences in heart disease.

The role of estrogen in heart health

The female sex hormone estrogen plays a role in protecting women from heart disease. One of the ways it does this is by balancing cholesterol. Estrogen raises high-density lipoproteins (HDL) — a beneficial form of cholesterol — and lowers a bad form of cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

As a woman’s reproductive years wind down and estrogen levels decline, her cholesterol levels change. Women who have gone through menopause have higher cholesterol than men. Lower HDL and elevated LDL increase the risk of heart disease in women over the age of 65.


Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women and men; however, the risk is higher in women than their male counterparts. While we aren’t sure exactly why, it may have something to do with other risks we see more in women, such as obesity and high cholesterol. For women, having diabetes significantly boosts heart disease risk.

Heart disease often builds up silently. It can develop slowly, and you may not have symptoms until it’s too late.


Smoking is bad news in just about every way. Not only is smoking bad for your lungs, but it is also detrimental to your heart and circulatory system. Women who smoke are at a higher risk of having a heart attack than men who smoke. 

Women, however, are more likely than men to find a healthy substitute for smoking and kick the habit.

Heart attack symptoms differ in women

Men are more likely to have classic heart attack symptoms: think crushing chest pain and pressure. Women tend to have vague symptoms that are easier to miss, such as:

Preventing heart disease in women

Heart disease is a highly preventable condition. While age and family history are outside of your control, the most significant risk factors are controllable. Knowing your risk as a woman is the first step to prevention.

As noted, women must take extra care to boost good cholesterol, keep weight within a healthy range, and avoid lifestyle factors such as smoking and excess alcohol consumption. Additionally, getting plenty of moderate-intensity exercise and adopting a heart-healthy diet provides a powerful foundation for heart health.

A heart screening is one of the most important steps you can take toward protecting your heart health. Even if you’re in great health, routine checkups are recommended for women age 45 and over. Women who are overweight or have other risk factors should start annual screening at age 40.

For more information and to schedule a heart-health screening, visit our Fremont or Hayward, California, office. Call us today or send us a message here on our website any time to schedule an appointment.

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