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Women and Coronary Artery Disease - Topic Overview

What increases a woman's risk? continued...

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 history of atherosclerosis or blood-clotting disorders. Healthy, young, nonsmoking women probably do not increase their risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) when they take low-dose birth control pills.

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

Risk factors for coronary artery disease that are common in women and men include smoking, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, and family history.

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. Your doctor will look at things like your cholesterol, blood pressure, and your age and race.

Your doctor might use a tool to calculate your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke in the next 10 years. There are different tools that doctors use. These tools are not perfect. They may show that your risk is higher or lower than it really is. But these tools give you and your doctor a good idea about your risk.

Knowing your risk is just the starting point for you and your doctor. Knowing your risk can help you and your doctor talk about whether you need to lower your risk. Together, you can decide what treatment is best for you.

What can women do to prevent coronary artery disease?

Women can use healthy lifestyle changes and medicines to help prevent coronary artery disease. Women can also balance the risks and benefits of hormone therapy when they decide whether or not to use it.

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