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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Disease and Stroke in Women: Reducing Your Risk - Topic Overview

How does your doctor check your risk? continued...

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.

How can you reduce your risk?

You can use healthy lifestyle changes and medicines to reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. You can also think about the risks and benefits of birth control pills and hormone therapy when you are deciding whether or not to use them.

Heart-healthy lifestyle

A heart-healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. And it can help you manage other problems that raise your risk. These problems include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Heart-healthy habits include not smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly, and staying at a healthy weight.


You might take medicines, along with making healthy lifestyle changes, to lower your risk. These medicines include:

  • Diabetes medicine.
  • Blood pressure medicine.
  • Cholesterol medicine.
  • Aspirin. Your doctor may suggest that you take a daily, low-dose aspirin if the benefits of aspirin to prevent a stroke are greater than the risk of stomach bleeding from taking daily aspirin. But the daily use of low-dose aspirin in healthy women who are at low risk of stroke is not recommended.2
  • An anticoagulant, also called a blood thinner, to lower your risk of stroke if you have atrial fibrillation.

Birth control and hormone therapy

  • Talk with your doctor about what type of birth control is right for you. Healthy, young, nonsmoking women probably do not increase their risk of heart disease when they take low-dose birth control pills. But birth control pills are more likely to increase a woman's risk if she is older than 35 and smokes cigarettes.
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk with hormone therapy. If you need relief for symptoms of menopause, hormone therapy is one choice you can think about. But there are other types of treatment for problems like hot flashes and sleep problems.
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