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Women and Heart Disease

Understanding Heart Disease

When most people talk about heart disease, they are referring to the most common type, coronary artery disease (see Heart Diseases for other types of heart disease). The coronary arteries are blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. When these arteries become clogged with fatty deposits called plaque, it's called coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease, or just heart disease. Clogged arteries can keep the heart from getting enough blood and oxygen, and can cause chest pain (angina). If a blood clot forms, it can suddenly cut off blood flow in the artery and cause a heart attack.
Plaque forms in the arteries over many years in a process called atherosclerosis. One cause of plaque in the arteries is too much cholesterol in the blood. As plaque builds up, the artery opening gradually narrows and becomes clogged. The artery can also become less elastic, which is often referred to as "hardening of the arteries."

Women and Heart Disease Risk Factors

There are two types of risk factors for heart disease: those you can do something about and those over which you have no control.
Risk factors for both men and women that you can do something about include:
Some risk factors, such as age and family history of early heart disease, cannot be changed.
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