Women and Cardiovascular Health Chapter 1

Women & Cardiovascular Disease (VIDEO)

Each year, more women die from heart disease than from breast cancer, cervical cancer, and uterine cancer -- combined. In this video, you can explore the female cardiovascular system and listen to renowned cardiologists Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Karol Watson, and Dr. Peter Fail. They explain why women are vulnerable to heart disease, how their vessels and symptoms differ from men's, and why women face challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Women & Heart Health

Nowhere are the health choices a woman makes during her lifetime more evident than in her cardiovascular health. Many people think that heart disease is an issue that concerns only men, but women are just as susceptible. In fact, heart disease caused by atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death and disability in women after menopause. Heart disease frequently goes undiagnosed in women because it can be more difficult to detect using the typical testing methods, such as angiograms. Heart attack symptoms may be diagnosed as other conditions, such as panic attacks. Women may even have heart attacks with no symptoms whatsoever. Read more

The Marvel

Your cardiovascular system is made to be resilient and to adjust to various conditions throughout your day and throughout your life. Consisting of the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries, it is amazing in both its extent and its durability. Your heart beats about 100,000 times a day, more than 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime, circulating your blood through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body. And it does all that three times a minute. Your blood carries nutrients and oxygen to all the tissues of your body and removes carbon dioxide and other wastes from them. If you take care of yourself, your heart and blood vessels can be in excellent condition and continue to do this incredible work even as you grow older. Although genetics certainly plays a part in your health, more important are the choices you make through the years about diet, health habits, and exercise. Read more

Women's Symptoms

Women and Heart Disease
Many people think heart disease is mostly a problem for men. But heart disease caused by atherosclerosis, called coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD), is the leading cause of death and disability in women after menopause. CHD is a broad term that includes angina (chest pain), heart attacks, sudden cardiac death syndrome, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), and heart failure due to a weakened heart, all caused by clogged cardiac arteries. Read more

How Arteries Age

Over the years, if we don't take care of our bodies, our blood vessels can start to lose their resiliency and plaque can start to build up in our arteries. Plaque is composed of cholesterol, inflammatory (immune) cells, calcium, and other substances that flow through our bloodstreams. Plaque buildup occurs if we eat high-fat diets or diets too high in refined carbohydrates, don't get enough exercise, are overweight, smoke, or have other unhealthy habits. Read more

Stroke: Blood, Interrupted

Blood Clots
A plaque can rupture and form a blood clot, called a thrombus. If the thrombus breaks off and travels through the blood stream, it's called an embolus. Emboli can travel to the hearts, lungs, or brain. Healthy arteries are flexible and allow blood to flow freely, but arteries clogged by atherosclerosis are susceptible to partial or complete blockage by debris or clots. If a blood clot blocks one of the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply the heart with blood), the result can be a myocardial infarction, or heart attack. If it blocks blood flow to the brain, it can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke. More women than men die of stroke. Read more

Pregnancy & Cardiovascular Changes

Women's cardiovascular systems in particular need to be resilient. As compared to a man's, a woman's body goes through extraordinary changes during her lifetime. These changes can have an enormous effect on her cardiovascular system. The most dramatic example of this is pregnancy. Read more

Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Women's risk factors for CHD differ in several important respects from men's.

  • Cholesterol. Studies have shown that women with high cholesterol levels have a somewhat lower mortality rate due to CHD than men with high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels may be less important than high levels of triglycerides in determining women's risk of CHD. For women in particular, high levels of HDL-cholesterol were associated with a low risk of developing CHD.
  • Triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides (the form in which most fat exists in the body) were more strongly associated with developing heart disease in women than in men.
  • High blood pressure. Doctors think that high blood pressure may be an even stronger predictor of CHD in women than it is in men.

Read more


Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attack Treatment
Treatment for CHD and heart attack include drug treatment, angioplasty and stent placement, and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Treatment for ischemic stroke is similar to treatment for CHD and heart attack, while treatment for hemorrhagic stroke seeks to prevent uncontrolled bleeding in the brain. Read more


Although genetics certainly play an important role in determining who is most likely to develop heart disease, controllable risk factors may well be even more important. According to many doctors, the five most important controllable risk factors are:

  • Total cholesterol levels
  • HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) level
  • Blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Body weight

Studies have shown that by avoiding or controlling all five of these major risk factors, 80% or more of heart attacks can be prevented. Knowing this can inspire you to adopt a healthier lifestyle. It's especially important for women to take a proactive approach to cardiovascular health, because the traditional tests may not detect CHD in women. Read more

3D Heart Rotation

3D Rotational Heart model showing heart structures and blood flow. Visible are the aorta, superior and inferior vena cavae, heart chambers ( atria and ventricles ), and left pulmonary artery. Read more

Related Health Centers:

Aneurysm and Stent, Angioplasty, Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Continuum, Cholesterol and Atherosclerosis, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Heart Attack and Angina, Hypertension, Stroke, Thrombosis and Embolism, Women and Cardiovascular Health

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.