Cardiovascular Disease in Women
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. Men and women can experience symptoms differently. For example, up to 20 percent of women have no chest pain when experiencing a heart attack. Instead, shortness of breath may be the main symptom. Common risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
An Introduction to Cardiovascular Disease in WomenMany women think cardiovascular disease is a man's problem. However, cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States. In fact, it is responsible for 1 in 2 deaths; breast cancer is responsible for 1 in 23.
What exactly is cardiovascular disease? The term is used to describe conditions that affect the heart ("cardio") and/or blood vessels ("vascular"). There are more than 60 types of cardiovascular disease, the most common forms being coronary heart disease (usually just referred to as heart disease), high blood pressure, and stroke.
Understanding the Cardiovascular SystemThe heart is a strong, muscular pump that is slightly larger than your fist. It pumps blood continuously through the circulatory system, the network of elastic tubes that allows blood to flow throughout the body. The cardiovascular system includes the heart and the blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins). Arteries and capillaries carry oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart and lungs to all parts of the body. Veins carry blood that has been depleted of oxygen and nutrients back to the heart and lungs.
Heart and blood vessel problems do not happen quickly. Over time, the arteries that bring blood to the heart and brain can become blocked due to a buildup of cells, fat, and cholesterol. This buildup is called plaque. Reduced blood flow to the heart due to blockages in the arteries causes heart attacks. Lack of blood flow to the brain from a blood clot, or bleeding in the brain from a broken blood vessel, causes a stroke.