Women and Heart Health
The first Friday in February is National Wear Red Day, a day when many people wear red to bring greater attention to heart disease as a leading cause of death for Americans. In fact, 1 in every 5 deaths in women in the United States is caused by heart disease. Celebrate Wear Red Day by learning about heart health, heart disease, and how you can help protect your heart.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease refers to different types of heart conditions. One example is a heart attack, which happens when plaque or a clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Another is coronary artery disease, which occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries. Some people believe that heart disease mainly affects men. But women are just as likely as men to have heart disease.
Heart Disease Research and FDA
Women’s heart health is important to FDA. Since 1994, FDA’s Office of Women’s Health (OWH) has helped fund research on heart disease in women. This work has provided new insights on heart disease and how different treatments and their effects can vary between men and women. It has also led to knowledge of how certain treatment devices work for women living with heart disease.
What Are Heart Disease Risk Factors in Women?
Some risk factors for heart disease may run in families, while others may be due to lifestyle factors. Here are a few common risk factors for heart disease:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Family history of premature heart disease
Read more about common risk factors for heart disease in women.
What Are the Signs of Heart Disease?
Heart disease is sometimes known as a silent disease and may not be diagnosed until you have other symptoms or emergencies such as a heart attack. Know the signs of a heart attack. For women, signs can be the same or different from those in men.
- Heavy ache in your chest or back between your shoulder blades
- Sharp pain in your upper body
- Shortness of breath
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Unusual or unexplained tiredness
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Feeling sick to your stomach
If you have any of the above signs, reach out to a health care provider for medical advice. In the case of a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
How Can I Be Heart-Healthy?
Learn about heart health. Start by watching this video.
Reduce your risk of heart disease by becoming more aware of your personal risk factors. This can include your age, race or ethnicity, and existing health conditions. Speak to your health care provider about your current medications and risks. Lastly, be sure to manage your existing health conditions well. For instance, having high blood pressure can raise your risk of heart disease.
Talk to your doctor about aspirin use. Aspirin is not for everyone. You can also get facts about taking aspirin from FDA’s Heart Health fact sheet resource.
Consider habits that promote good heart health. Aim to maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical activity and eating heart-healthy foods are good ways to start. Use FDA’s Nutrition Facts Label to guide your food choices for good heart health. If you are a current smoker, quitting can be beneficial for your heart health. Learn more with FDA’s booklet on medicines to help you quit smoking.
Maternal Heart Health
Each year, about 700 women in the United States die from problems related to pregnancy, and more than 50,000 women have life-threatening pregnancy complications. Heart conditions are leading causes.
A few key risk factors for pregnancy-related heart problems include your age, race or ethnicity, and existing health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. If you plan to get pregnant or are pregnant, talk to your health care provider about your risks and how you can better protect your heart health for you and your baby. Read more on maternal warning signs.
Women in Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are research studies that inform the safety of medical treatments and how well they work. Women of all ages, health backgrounds, races, and ethnic backgrounds can volunteer to participate in clinical trials. This can help inform research areas like heart disease. It can also lead to treatments that are safe and work well for all women. Learn how you can take part in a clinical trial.
There are several ways to make better heart health decisions today. To start, you can make lifestyle changes that support good heart health. You can also take time to become more informed of your risks. These are just a few steps you can take to live a more heart-healthy life each day.
Check out these resources from our office and federal partners:
- How Smoking Affects Heart Health | FDA
- Tips for Women to Prevent Heart Disease | FDA
- High Blood Pressure | FDA
- Cholesterol Medicines Guide | FDA
- Interactive Nutrition Facts Label | FDA
- Listen to Your Heart: Women and Heart Disease | NHLBI, NIH
- Heart Disease | HHS Office on Women's Health
- Heart Disease Resources | HHS Office on Women's Health
For resources and materials on other women's health topics, visit www.fda.gov/womens.