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Lower Your Risk for the Number 1 Killer of Women

lower your risk for the number one killer of womenThe term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attack.



Get informed: facts on women and heart disease


Despite an increase in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize that heart disease in their number one killer.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing 301,280 women in 2019 - or about one in every five female deaths. Among American Indian and Alaska Native women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For Hispanic or Latina and Asian and Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer as a cause of death.

  • About one in 16 age 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease.





Sometimes heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until a woman has signs or symptoms including:

  • Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest
  • Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen



What you can do for heart health


You can lower your chance of heart disease and a heart attack by taking simple steps:

  • Manage stress levels by finding ways to cope with stress.
  • Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it's important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Learn more about high blood pressure. Additionally, high blood pressure may increase the risk of problems during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your doctor or health care team about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Quit smoking. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, learn ways to quit.
  • Be physically active. Adults should strive for at least two hours and 30 minutes (or 150 minutes total) of physical activity each week. Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease and other heart disease risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Choose healthy foods and drinks to help prevent heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and eat fewer processed foods.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink to one drink a day.



  1. Mosca L, Hammond G, Mochari-Greenberger H, Towfighi A, Albert MA, American Heart Association Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in Women and Special Populations Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, Council on Cardiovascular Nursing, Council on High Blood Pressure Research, and Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism. Fifteen-year trends in awareness of heart disease in women: Results of a 2012 American Heart Association national survey. Circulation. 2013;127(11):1254–63, e1–29.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2019 on CDC Wonder Online Database, released in 2020. Data are from Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2019, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed Jan 7, 2021.
  3. Heron M. Deaths: Leading cause for 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2019;68(6).
  4. Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019;139:e1–e473.
  5. NHLBI. Heart Disease in Women. Accessed October 2, 2018.
  6. HHS, OWH. Heart disease prevention. 2015. Accessed October 2, 2018.
  7. HHS, OWH. Diabetes. Accessed October 2, 2018.


Office of Minority Health & Health Equity (OMHHE)

Content last updated February 8, 2021

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