What Women Need to Know About Heart Disease

Think that breast cancer is the #1 killer of women? Think again. Heart disease is more deadly by far. Get the facts.

Fast Facts: Women & Heart Disease

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, taking more female lives than all cancers, respiratory diseases and Alzheimer disease combined.1
  • Nearly 420,000 women died of heart disease, while 40,500 died of breast cancer in the U.S. in 2008.1
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.1
  • Women’s awareness that heart disease is their leading cause of death increased from 30% in 1997 to 56% in 2012. However, only 42% of women aged 35 and older are concerned about heart disease.1
  • After their first heart attack, 26% of women age 45 and older die within a year, compared to 19% of men.1
  • At age 45, the lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease is more than 1 in 2 women.1
  • Some diagnostic tests and procedures, including the exercise stress test, might be less accurate in women then men.4

Fast Facts: Women & Risk Factors

  • Many women of color, including Black and Latino Americans, are more likely to develop risk factors and are at a higher risk of death from heart disease, yet they are less likely to recognize their risks.2
  • Among adults aged 65 and older, men (53.0%)  were more likely than women (30.6%) to have quit smoking.1
  • Only 3% of women between 20 to 59 years of age engage in the recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.1
  • Black (80%) and Mexican-American (78%) women are more likely to be overweight or obese than White women (60%).1
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is 2 to 3 times more common in women taking oral contraceptives than in women not taking them.1

Take Charge of Your Heart Health 

Although the statistics above paint a troubling picture of women and heart disease, all is not lost! There are three simple things you can do to reduce your risk for heart disease, starting today.

  1. Know your risk factors. Although your can't change your age or heredity, there are many other risk factors for heart disease that you can control.
  2. Talk to your doctor. At your next doctor's appointment, bring our list of questions and a heart health scorecard to help assess your risk for heart disease.
  3. Reduce your risk. Making simple, healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk for heart disease.

Related Resources

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This information is not a substitute for medical care. Please consult a doctor or health care provider.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors for heart disease. Bring this list of questions to your next appointment.

Review questions to ask your doctor

Did You Know? - Heart Attacks & Women

Women often do not exhibit the same symptoms as men when having a heart attack. Find out how to recognize the signs of a heart attack from Heartistry, a patient education resource from Boston Scientific.

Learn heart attack symptoms

Spread the Word

Help us Close the Gap! Use our resources to help women in your community reduce their risk factors for heart disease.

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What's Your Risk?

Use our assessment tool to find out if you're at risk for developing heart disease.

Assess your risk now

Help Improve Research about Women & Heart Disease

We need more women in clinical trials to help further research to fight heart disease. Find trials you may qualify for from the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Join a clinical trial now