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lisa fournace winn, dnp, aprn

Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease is the #1 KILLER OF WOMEN. Not breast cancer, not COVID, nor boredom at work or embarrassment when you speak in front of a group. It is Heart Disease.

Imagine two of your best friends or sisters standing beside you. One of you three will die of heart disease.  

When it comes to heart disease, there are risk factors you cannot control: age, family medical history, race, or sex.

Risk Factors

There are other risk factors you can control like your weight, activity level, health management, and bad habits. These are called modifiable risk factors.

Modifiable risk factors are behaviors and choices you make that contribute to disease. If you change your behavior, you can change your risk for heart disease and add years to your life:

  • Smoking –We all know it is bad for you. Stop it. Just don’t do it. Seriously, stop.
  • Know Your Numbers – High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar (diabetes) are known as silent killers. Silent because they do not usually make you feel bad. Instead they slowly ravage your heart and blood vessels if left untreated. Work with your medical provider to keep your numbers in a healthy range.
  • Move Your Body – A moderate amount of physical activity (about 150 minutes per week) is protective against heart disease. You should perform this activity at an intensity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe heavier.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight – Being overweight or obese puts excess strain on the heart and increases your risk for heart disease. Decreasing your body weight by just 10% can modify your risk.
  • Get a Dog – Studies have shown a correlation between dog ownership and health. People who own dogs tend to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides than those who do not have dogs. There is also a calming effect of owning a pet that can reduce stress levels, which in turn can affect your physical health.


Heart disease can lead to a heart attack. Unfortunately, women can have different symptoms than men with a heart attack. Men often have a “crushing” pain in the chest. Women, however, are more likely to have vague symptoms that are easily ignored or brushed off. Symptoms may include pain in neck, jaw, arm(s), nausea, vomiting, upper back pain, indigestion, feeling light headed, and dizziness.

Healthy Living

Taking care of your health today is like depositing money in your savings account. Little “deposits” made today can accrue to a lot of health as you get older. In the moment, small changes do not always seem significant or reap immediate rewards, but you have to trust that the reward is there for your future self. You will lead a longer, more active life if you work today to reduce the wear and tear on your body as it ages.

I am not just talking to “older” women. I am talking to all women. Just like with your retirement savings account, the earlier you start to make deposits in your health, the greater that benefit will be for you. Whether you are 20 years old or 60, any time is a good time to invest in your heart health.

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