Heart Disease

A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. Often referred to simply as heart disease, it is one of several cardiovascular diseases, which are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system. 

Other cardiovascular diseases include: 

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Rheumatic heart disease

Women at Risk 

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse.

Important risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes

Risk factors for heart disease that cannot be changed include:


Age becomes a risk factor at age 55. After menopause, women are at higher risk of heart disease, in part because their body’s production of estrogen drops. Women who have gone through early menopause, either naturally or because they have had a hysterectomy with removal of their ovaries or their ovaries have failed, are twice as likely to develop heart disease as women of the same age who have not yet gone through menopause. 

Family History

Family history of early heart disease is another risk factor that can't be changed. If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55 or if your mother or sister had one before age 65, you are more likely to get heart disease yourself. 

While certain risk factors cannot be changed, it is important to realize that you do have control over many others. Regardless of your age, background or health status, you can lower your risk of heart disease through simple steps such as taking a brisk walk, cooking heart-healthy meals or getting the support you need to maintain a healthy weight.