Jefferson University Hospitals

Women & Heart Disease

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Women and Heart Disease

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

There are certain things out of your control, including some risk factors for heart disease such as:

  • Family history of premature cardiac disease, coronary artery disease or stroke
  • Your age, particularly if you are 55 or older
  • Being postmenopausal or having your ovaries removed

But, there are factors that you can influence:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Diabetes

Each of these factors put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease. If you have more than one factor, your risk increases substantially. Fortunately, it's not too late to decide to make a change.

Your Heart, Your Health

There is a close and critical relationship between the health of your heart and other diseases. For example, if you have high blood pressure and it goes untreated, it puts enormous strain on your heart by making the heart pump harder to circulate the blood. If you are diabetic, you are at a higher risk of heart disease because diabetes makes it more difficult for blood to flow through the linings of your vessels. If you have both, your chances of developing heart disease increase significantly.

In other words, it's important to take a holistic approach to your health. Because Jefferson is an academic medical center, we have access to and conduct the research that helps us better understand and treat these conditions. 

Working with Your Doctor

Sometimes your doctors will use terms you don't understand. Be sure to stop and ask to have something explained in a way you can understand.

YOU are in charge of your health. It is extremely important that when you leave your doctor's office, your questions have been answered. No more nodding and agreeing. Here's a cheat sheet, and write down the answers if you have to:

  • What is my risk of heart disease?
  • What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me and is there anything I should be doing?
  • What are my cholesterol numbers (LDL – bad; HDL – good)? What does it mean for me?
  • What can you do to help me quit smoking?
  • What can you do to help me lose weight if I need to?
  • How much physical activity do I need to protect my heart?
  • What other screening tests for heart disease do I need?
  • How can I tell if I'm having a heart attack?
  • What is my blood sugar level and does it mean I am at risk of diabetes?