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Facts about women and heart disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the following statistics about women and heart disease.
The term "heart disease" in the contexts of this page refers to several different types of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type is coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease. 

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. In 2006, 315,930 women died from it.
  • Heart disease killed 26% of the women who died in 2006-more than one in every four.
    Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a "man's disease," around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Unfortunately, 36% of women did not perceive themselves to be at risk for heart disease in a 2005 survey.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian American women, heart disease is second only to cancer.
  • In 2006, about 6.9% of all white women, 8.8% of black women, and 6.6% of Mexican American women were living with coronary heart disease.
  • Almost two-thirds of the women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.
  • Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.

Risk factors

Nine out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor. Several medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put women at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol use

Women compared to men 

  • Men's plaque distributes in clumps whereas women's plaque distributes more evenly throughout artery walls.
  • Women wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack.

Source: Statistics complied from the National Center on Health Statistics; National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the American Heart Association, HANES III, the World Heart Federation and WomenHeart .

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