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10 Things to Know about Your Risk for Heart Disease

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1. Being a woman does not let you off the hook for heart disease.
You may think that because you are a woman, you don't have to worry about heart disease because heart disease is a man's disease. WRONG! Heart disease is an equal opportunity killer. It's true that women have fewer heart attacks than men before they reach menopause, but after that women quickly catch up with men. Every year more than 500,000 women die of cardiovascular diseases, according to the American Heart Association.

2. You're in the driver's seat when it comes to controlling many of the risk factors for heart disease.
There are certain risk factors for heart disease that you can't control, like having a family history of coronary heart disease, your age (the risk of heart disease increases with age), or your race and ethnicity (African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, and other Native Americans are at greater risk than whites for heart disease). Though these are factors you can't control, there are plenty other conditions and behaviors related to your lifestyle that you can control to lessen your risk of heart disease. The more of those you can get a grip on, the better your odds.

Click here to take a simple test and calculate your 10-year risk of having a heart attack or dying of coronary heart disease based on answers to questions about your personal risk factors.

3. If you smoke, you're doing your heart no favors.
If you're a woman and a smoker, you are two to six times more likely to develop heart disease than if you are a nonsmoker. Your risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Being around other people's smoke isn't healthy for your heart either; it increases your risk of heart disease even if you're a nonsmoker.

The good news is that kicking butt, as in quitting smoking, dramatically cuts the risk to your heart, even during the first year, no matter what your age. Click here to find out more about methods to quit smoking.

4. Your weight, especially the size of your waistline, matters.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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