Women and heart disease: 6 ways to show your heart some love
Feb. 13, 2023—Would you be surprised to learn that heart disease—not breast cancer—is the leading cause of death in women? It's true. Unfortunately, many women don't know that heart disease is their greatest health threat, according to the American Heart Association.
While anyone can get heart disease, having one or more risk factors boosts those chances. And 9 out of 10 women have at least one heart disease risk factor, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports.
6 steps to better heart health for women
There are things you can do to help protect your heart—and it's never too late. These six tips can help:
1. Know what puts your heart at risk. Ask your doctor about your risk for heart disease and what you can do to lower it. Some risk factors, like being 55 or older or having a family history of early heart disease, are out of your control. Others, such as smoking cigarettes, can be changed. Knowing the whole picture can help you take charge of your health.
2. Control your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. If you do have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, work with your doctor to manage them. If you're not sure, ask your doctor if you're due for a screening. These conditions may not cause symptoms.
3. If you smoke, put your heart into quitting. Ask your doctor about medicines that may make it easier to quit for good.
4. Eat well. A heart-healthy diet includes more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less artery-clogging saturated and trans fats. Try to reduce your intake of blood pressure-boosting salt and sodium and added sugars too. Here's one heart-healthy change you can make right away: If you eat meat, buy the leanest cuts you can afford.
5. Get moving. Walking is good for the heart. Along with a sensible eating plan, it can help you maintain a healthy weight. Or choose your own favorite way to exercise. Your doctor can help you find the type and amount of exercise that's right for you.
6. Catch plenty of ZZZs. If you're not getting enough high-quality sleep, you may be at an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Go to bed early enough to get at least 7 to 9 hours of nightly shut-eye.
Learn more about heart disease and discover more heart-healthy tips in our Heart health topic center.
- American Heart Association. "Causes and Prevention of Heart Disease." https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/facts/causes-and-prevention-of-heart-disease.
- American Heart Association. "Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/sodium-and-salt.
- American Heart Association. "Saturated Fat." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats.
- American Heart Association. "Trans Fats." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat.
- American Heart Association. "What is Atherosclerosis?" https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/atherosclerosis.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Heart Disease: It's Not Just for Men." https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-truth/heart-disease-not-just-men.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Listen to Your Heart: Women and Heart Disease." https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-truth/listen-to-your-heart.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Take Action Toward Better Heart Health: Get Quality Sleep and Reduce Stress." https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/heart-truth/get-quality-sleep-and-reduce-stress.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Heart Health for Women." https://www.fda.gov/consumers/womens-health-topics/heart-health-women.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Tips for Women to Prevent Heart Disease." https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/tips-women-prevent-heart-disease.