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Questions for a Health Professional: Heart Attack Risks for Women

Questions for a Health Professional: Heart Attack Risks for Women

Women and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among American women. This includes the build-up of plaque in the arteries supplying the heart (coronary artery disease), the pelvis, legs and feet (peripheral artery disease) and/or the brain (carotid artery disease). Do you have questions about your risk, as a woman, for a heart attack? Visit the listing below for more information.

First Steps

You can start living a healthier lifestyle today. Start by eliminating any preventable risk factors:

  • Trim the fat from your diet, and add fiber.
  • Start getting 30 to 60 minutes of cardio exercise at least five days
  • Toss the salt shaker away and starting checking sodium content on food labels.
  • Smoke or chew tobacco? Ask your doctor for help in quitting.
  • Consult your doctor about your optimal weight and a good weight-loss plan.
  • Limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage a day (for women as well as men).
  • Eliminate unnecessary pressures and seek better means of coping.

To address non-preventable cardiovascular risk factors (a family history of heart disease or stroke, or a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), your doctor may recommend daily aspirin. Aspirin thins the blood and prevents the formation of clots, a key culprit in plaque build-up. But aspirin use is complicated. The American Heart Association recommends daily aspirin starting at:

  • Age 40 - for those with diabetes plus one other risk factor
  • Age 45 - for those with two or more cardiovascular risk factors
  • Age 65 - your doctor may recommend a dose ranging from 75 mg (baby-aspirin strength) to 162 mg (the strength of half an adult aspirin). However, if you are at risk of hemorrhagic stroke, ulcer or other problems, aspirin may not be right for you.

By Leslie Cho, MD, Head of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation, and Director of the Women's Cardiovascular Center of the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute.