Learn the Surprising Facts About Women and the Nation’s Leading Health Risk

By Brittany Taylor, DNP, NP-C

Aiken Regional Medical Center, Aiken, South CarolinaDid you know that heart disease remains the leading cause of death among women in the United States, killing a woman every 80 seconds? Heart disease also causes one in three deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined – and can affect women at any age. Unfortunately, only 44 percent of women recognize that heart disease is their greatest health threat.*

Unique life events, including pregnancy and menopause, can impact a woman’s risk. Stress is another risk factor. It’s important for women to understand their mind-body connection, and focus on how to maintain or improve both physical and mental health. It is vital for all women to understand their personal risk factors and family history for heart disease.

About 1 in 16 women aged 20 and older have heart disease.*

Do You Know Your Risk for Heart Disease?

Personal risk factors include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity. A family history of heart disease greatly impacts your risk of developing heart disease. 

Lifestyle risk factors include eating a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol, consuming too much sodium, not getting enough physical activity, overuse of alcohol and smoking. Following a Mediterranean-style diet and participating in regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease by 80 percent, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.**

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease.* CAD is caused by plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. For some people, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction. 

A heart attack strikes someone in the United States about every 43 seconds.***

The most common symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, lightheadedness, nausea, and pain and/or discomfort in the arms or shoulder. However, women often exhibit different symptoms that may include vomiting, fatigue, and pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.

Read more about common heart attack symptoms and how they differ between men and women →

STEMI Heart Attack

An ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI) is a more severe and dangerous heart attack that affects your heart’s lower chambers. Our team’s door-to-balloon time (D2B) – the time it takes a patient arriving with STEMI from the emergency department to receiving a catheter guidewire in the cardiac catheterization lab — is less than 90 minutes. A D2B time less than 90 minutes significantly reduces mortality and improves cardiac outcomes.

Nationally Recognized Cardiac Care, When Minutes Matter

Named by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association, Aiken Regional Medical Centers is a certified Primary Heart Attack Center. This certification means that our team is nationally recognized for our dedication to providing high-standard cardiac care and patient outcomes.

Because one mother, daughter, sister, friend or neighbor lost to heart disease is one too many. It is never too early or too late to take care of your heart. Aiken Regional Medical Centers and Carolina Heart and Vascular Center is here for you.


*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention