Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack or Stroke?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, but it's also one of the most preventable. Here's how to know if you're in the danger zone.
Each year, more than one million Americans experience a heart attack. According to research published in the American Heart Association's online journal Circulation, nearly half of these heart attacks are fatal. Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death for women and men. More women have strokes than men, and women are more likely to die as a result of a stroke. Many people believe that heart attacks are a problem for only older men, yet heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States.
The Difference Between a Heart Attack and a Stroke
In most instances, a heart attack is caused by a small blood clot lodged within a blood vessel leading to either the heart or the brain. If blood clots form in the blood vessels serving the heart, they cause a heart attack. Blood clots that develop or travel to the blood vessels in the brain cause a stroke.
What Makes Women Susceptible to Heart Disease?
The traditional risk factors -- high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity -- affect both women and men, but other factors may be more important in the development of heart disease in women:
- Metabolic syndrome (a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides)
- Mental stress and depression
- Low levels of estrogen after menopause
- Family history of heart disease