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Women’s Hearts: Cardiovascular Disease Is Leading Cause of Death

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Women’s Hearts: Cardiovascular Disease as Leading Cause of Death Jakub Jirsák/Fotolia

At the 2015 NAMS conference, speaker Dr. Samia Mora, MD, MHS, presented information that will be surprising to many women. She said that heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, cardiovascular disease deaths in women are equal to all deaths from cancer, lung disease and Alzheimer's disease combined.

This often surprises many women, especially since so much focus is on breast cancer prevention. Mora, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that 1 in 30 women will die of breast cancer, whereas 1 in 3 will die from CVD. One woman dies from CVD every minute.

Unfortunately, these deaths for women are being overshadowed by the coverage that goes to breast cancer. While it’s important to be vigilant about breast cancer prevention and treatment, the fact is that more women are dying from heart disease.

Obviously more attention needs to be placed on the causes and prevention of heart attacks in women.

Estrogen Levels and Heart Disease

Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of the artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. That means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow.

An article by the American Heart Association website said that “a decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women.”

While estrogen decline isn’t the only reason women face a higher cardiovascular disease risk after reaching menopause, it’s worth examining further and discussing with your doctor.

Challenges in Heart Disease Prevention

The biggest challenge is in making women aware that heart disease is the number one killer among women. The focus has been on breast cancer, but heart disease is a much bigger problem. And it needs to be emphasized that for most women it can be prevented through good nutrition and exercise.

In general, the American Heart Association recommends that women of every age:

• Get regular checkups
• Stay active
• Consistently eat a healthy and balanced diet
• Maintain a positive attitude

While these recommendations are simple, they can help reduce your chance of having a serious heart condition or die a premature death. Quite literally, prevention through a healthy lifestyle can help you avoid many serious health problems, especially during menopause.


Menopause and Heart Disease. American Heart Association.

How to Prevent Heart Disease After Menopause. American Heart Association.

Heart-Health Screenings. American Heart Association.

Reviewed November 4, 2015
By Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Iron is one reason for heart disease in women. Once menstruation stops, iron levels increase. Which is why donating blood once a month would help tremendously. Yet, no article or study states this.

Even sitting in on a panel of female cardiologists. Both were CLUELESS when I asked the question. The one I learned from? Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Doom and gloom mustn't be painted. And certainly pHARMaceuticals not pushed.

November 5, 2015 - 11:28am
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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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