Women and Heart Disease
Heart disease is usually a result of coronary (core-uh-nary) artery disease and high blood pressure. Coronary artery disease occurs when fatty deposits form on the arteries reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients the heart receives. High blood pressure, or hypertension (hyper-tension), occurs when the heart pumps more blood through the body than is necessary to maintain a steady flow.
Heart disease is the cause of almost one-third of all deaths in Western countries. Men are more likely to be affected than women. However, after menopause or removal of the ovaries, a woman’s odds of having a heart attack increase dramatically. Doctors suspect a decrease in estrogen is the cause.
Symptoms of coronary heart disease, such as heart pain usually strike women later in life. However, the disease can affect females in their teens. Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, obesity, family history, and other diseases such as diabetes. Women over 35 who take birth control pills are at a greater risk of coronary artery disease. The American Medical Association recommends that women who take estrogen or birth control pills have their blood pressure checked once a year.