Wellness & Education

Wellness & Education

Heart Disease: What You Don't Know Can Kill You

Most women have heard a lot about breast cancer screenings, osteoporosis prevention, pap smears and ovarian cancer. But the #1 cause of death in women—cardiovascular disease—is responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined. More than 50% of all deaths are related to cardiovascular problems: heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure and other blood vessel-related problems. It is important to know the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and have regular screenings. Here are some basics:

Women Heart Disease FactsObesity

Women who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. By losing weight and getting into good physical shape, you can reduce the strain on your heart. You get lots of other benefits, too: obesity has been associated with an increase in diabetes; high blood pressure; infertility; gallbladder disease; osteoarthritis; and a variety of cancers, including breast, uterine, and colon cancers. Endometrial (uterine) cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer, and obese women are almost five times more likely than other women to develop endometrial cancer.

If you are overweight or obese, here are some tips and resources: 


Smokers are at very high risk of strokes and heart attacks. Female smokers face additional risks, as Dr. Carlton noted in her blog post. If you are a smoker, it’s time to quit! There are many resources available to help you; check out You Can Quit Smoking Now, visit http://www.healthfinder.gov and search “smoking” or call the National Quitline at 1-800-QuitNow. There are also medications that can help—talk to your provider for more information.


Have your cholesterol checked regularly—at least every five years—starting at age 45. If you are younger than 45 and have diabetes and/or high blood pressure, heart disease runs in your family, you smoke or you are overweight, talk to your provider about beginning regular cholesterol screening earlier. Menopausal women should have their cholesterol tested every year.

Visit the National Cholesterol Education Program for more information.

Blood Pressure

Have your blood pressure checked at every doctor’s visit. High blood pressure puts a huge amount of strain on your heart over the years and greatly increases your risk of stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure can be controlled very easily with medication.


Women with diabetes are at very high risk for heart disease. If you are obese, have relatives with diabetes or have had gestational diabetes in a pregnancy, then you are at risk for developing diabetes yourself. Have your provider check your blood sugar levels along with your cholesterol.

Genetic Clotting Disorders

There are several genetic blood clotting problems that can cause cardiovascular problems. Ask your relatives if there are any clotting problems in your family, especially siblings, parents and grandparents. Then talk to your provider to determine if you need to be tested.

For more information about heart disease in women, read Keeping Your Heart Healthy published by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Talk to your Women’s Healthcare Associates provider about your risk factors for heart disease at your annual exam. Make an appointment > 

We now have a Women’s Healthcare Associates Facebook page - visit us here! We look forward to hearing your feedback, answering your questions, and providing you with regular valuable information for YOUR health.

Bonny Hinz, CNM is a Certified Nurse Midwife who sees patients at the Oregon City and Canby offices of Women’s Healthcare Associates.

Sources: Image - snarky_momma