Heart disease affects the heart and the arteries within the heart. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease and develops over many years. That’s why many women don’t realize their heart (and health) is in jeopardy until they experience symptoms, such as chest pain or heart attack. CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened or narrowed due to a buildup of cells, cholesterol (a fatty, wax-like substance) and fat along the inner walls of blood vessels (a process called artherosclerosis). This narrowing restricts or blocks blood flow to the heart, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart, and may lead to heart attack or stroke.
Certain health behaviors or conditions called risk factors make a woman more likely to develop heart disease. It is important for you to know and be aware of risk factors that are a result of your age or family history. Other risk factors, such as are high cholesterol, abnormal blood pressure, and diabetes should be monitored and controlled for a better prognosis. Additionally, obesity, smoking tobacco and a sedentary lifestyle are also considered risk factors for heart disease.
Risk factors that can be managed or minimized to improve your prognosis:
• High blood pressure (also called hypertension)
• High LDL, or "bad” cholesterol, high triglycerides and/or low HDL, or "good” cholesterol
• Physical inactivity
• Diabetes (or pre-diabetes)
• Smoking (by not smoking and avoiding second hand smoke)