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The Facts: Women and Heart Disease

Progress is being made in the fight against heart disease in women – more and more women are aware that heart disease is their #1 killer, and fewer women are dying from it. But heart disease continues to be the #1 killer of women, and most women still do not take heart disease seriously and personally. The information that follows includes newly-analyzed data about the status of heart disease in women today.

The Good News

  • Overall heart disease deaths in American women are decreasing. Of the women who died in 2005 (the mostrecent year for which data are available), 1 in 4 died of heart disease.
  • The last six years in particular haveseen a steady decline in the number of heart disease deaths in women –deaths have gone down in each of the six years from 2000 to 2005, aconsecutive yearly decline which has not occurred before.
  • Women are living longer and healthier lives, and dying of heartdisease at much later ages than in past years. In 2005, about half of all heart diseasedeaths in women occurred at or after age 85. In contrast, forty years earlier (1965),the vast majority of women who died of heart disease (80 percent), died atearlier ages.
  • Awareness among women of heart disease as their #1 killer has increasedfrom one-third in 2000 to about half in 2008.
  • About half of women recognize the Red Dress since its 2002introduction in the marketplace as the national symbol for women and heartdisease awareness, up from 25 percent in 2005 and zero percent before2002.

The Bad News

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States (with the exception of Asian andPacific Islanders, in whom it is second to cancer).
  • In 2005, heart disease killed more women than stroke, COPD,diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease combined. Heart disease also kills more women thanall forms of cancer and diabetes combined.
  • Each year, since in 1991, more women than men have died of heartdisease. Women are 21 percent more likely than men to die within a year ofa first heart attack.
  • A woman suffers a heart attack every minute, and everyminute-and-a-half, a woman dies from heart disease. One in three 40year-old women will have a heart attack or chest pains sometime in theirlifetime.
  • About one-third of women still underestimate their own personalrisk of heart disease based on their medical history and risk factors. Yet millions of women have one or morerisk factors that place them at seriously increased risk of developingheart disease.

Heart disease is more serious among women of color. Although heart disease deaths have declined in all women, African American women are more likely to die of the condition, and at younger ages, than white women. In 2005, the death rate for black women was 5 times higher than for white women, compared to 3 times higher in 1980. Since 2000, the number of black women under age 40 with heart disease has been increasing.

Heart disease is also more prevalent among African American women than white women, as are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing it, such as high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, and diabetes. Hispanic women also have high rates of some of the heart disease risk factors, including diabetes, overweight and obesity, and physical inactivity.

Creating a Heart Health Action Plan
Heart Attack Warning Signs
The Heart Truth Campaign and The Red Dress Project
The Facts: Women and Heart Disease
Ten Questions to Ask Your Doctor
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

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