Why is it important for women to learn about coronary artery disease?
Coronary artery disease is a leading cause of death for women throughout the world. More women die from heart disease than from cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer's, and
But many women underestimate the threat coronary artery
disease (CAD) poses to their health. And many women do not know what they can
do to help prevent heart disease.
What is coronary artery disease?
disease is caused by the gradual buildup of
plaque (made of fat,
cholesterol and other substances) on the inside walls
coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich
blood to the heart. Over time, the plaque deposits grow large enough to narrow
the arteries' inside channels, decreasing blood flow to heart muscle. If the
plaque becomes unstable and ruptures, a blood clot can form at the rupture site
and block blood flow, resulting in a
heart attack. See a picture of
how plaque causes a heart attack.
What factors lead to coronary artery disease in women?
Women have unique risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors include hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, and pregnancy-related problems.
Menopause. A woman's chance of getting coronary artery disease is higher after menopause. This higher chance is not completely
understood. But cholesterol,
high blood pressure, and fat around the abdomen-all
risk factors for coronary artery disease-also increase around this time.
Hormone replacement therapy. Taking
estrogen with or without
progestin does not prevent coronary artery disease. In
fact, if you are 10 or more years past menopause, taking
hormone therapy may raise your risk of coronary artery
Birth control pills. Using birth control pills might
increase your risk if you smoke and are older than 35 or if you have a family
atherosclerosis or blood-clotting disorders.
Pregnancy-related problems. A problem during pregnancy called preeclampsia has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease later in life. Experts are studying whether other pregnancy-related problems are linked to heart disease. Tell your doctor about any problems you had during pregnancy.
Immune diseases. Some immune-related diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, have been linked with a higher risk of heart disease in women.
Heart disease risk factors for both women and men
The risk factors for coronary artery disease that are common in women and men include
smoking, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, and
How will my doctor determine my risk for coronary artery disease?
Your doctor will calculate your risk for coronary artery
disease by assessing the number of risk factors you have. Risk factors