Many women may not be aware that heart disease and stroke are major threats to their health. But heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States, and stroke is number three. Heart disease and stroke also are major causes of long-term disability.
The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). In CAD, plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes the arteries to narrow and harden. This keeps the heart from getting all the blood it needs. Blood clots may develop. If the clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the heart, it causes a heart attack.
Stroke happens when the brain doesn’t get enough blood. Without enough blood, brain cells start to die.
The good news is that you can take steps to lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Figure out your personal risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and learn what steps you can take to lower your risks. Get familiar with specific warning signs of heart attack and stroke. In women, the warning signs often are overlooked. But prompt treatment can help women recover from a heart attack or stroke with few or no disabilities.
Whatever your age, you can commit to heart-healthy living. It is never too late to take steps to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
This article first appeared on WomensHealth.gov.