Heart Disease in Young Women: What You Need to Know

Apr 15 • 2015
Finding balance during the school year

Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, but the truth is that it affects just as many women. In fact, more women in the United States die from heart disease and stroke than from all types of cancer combined. A recent article from the NY Times discusses the fact that this disease is now becoming more common in young women.

What can you do to lower your risk? What warning signs mean you should call 911?

Risk Factors in Women
The traditional risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure impact women, but there are some additional things females should be looking for. These risk factors affect more women than men:

  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Smoking
  • Mental stress and depression
  • Low levels of estrogen after menopause
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Pregnancy complications like high blood pressure or gestational diabetes

To minimize risk as much as possible, women should avoid smoking, exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day, maintain a healthy weight, and keep a diet low in cholesterol, salt, and saturated fat.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest
Each of these cardiovascular emergencies presents in different ways. If any of these warning signs are present, it is important that you call 911 immediately.

Heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness


  • Drooping or numbness on one side of the face
  • Weakness in one arm
  • Difficulty speaking, including slurred speech, inability to speak, or speech that is hard to understand

Cardiac Arrest

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness
  • No normal breathing

Remember that every second counts, so calling 911 as soon as any of these signs are present is crucial.

If you are at risk for heart disease, speak with your doctor to determine the best methods for prevention. Share this post with the women in your life to educate them on the importance of their heart health.