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Women and Coronary Artery Disease - Topic Overview

Healthy lifestyle

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

  • Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet, which focuses on adding more healthy foods to your diet and cutting back on foods that are not so good for you. There a few eating plans you can choose from.
    Heart-Healthy Eating
  • Be active. Try to do moderate activity at least 2½ hours a week. Or try to do vigorous activity at least 1¼ hours a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Do strength exercises at least 2 days a week. For more information, see the topic:
    Fitness.
  • Keep your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 and your waist circumference less than 35 inches. To check your BMI:
    Interactive Tool: Is Your BMI Increasing Your Health Risks?
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (an average of 1 drink a day for women). If you do not drink, don't start.

Medicines

You might take medicines, along with making healthy lifestyle changes, to lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. You might take:

  • High blood pressure medicine.
  • High 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.3
  • An anticoagulant, also called a blood thinner, to lower your risk of stroke if you have atrial fibrillation.
  • Medicine to lower the workload on your heart. If you have been diagnosed with CAD or have had a heart attack, you will probably take heart medicines like beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).

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. And carefully weigh the benefits against the risks of taking it. 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. For more information, see the topic Menopause and Perimenopause.
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