Women and Heart Disease: Missed Opportunities

Angela D. Banks, University of San Francisco


One woman dies of cardiovascular disease (CVD) every minute in the United States. CVD is the primary cause of mortality in US women, substantially affecting the lives of African American women compared to other ethnic groups. In a national survey conducted by the American Heart Association, 87% of women surveyed failed to cite heart disease as a major threat to their health. These misperceptions may lead women to underestimate their risk for CVD, resulting in a delay in seeking medical care, thus increasing their morbidity and mortality rates. Professional association guidelines and Internet resources for women and their health care providers are available to address the risk factors of smoking, diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and physical inactivity. Unless women are informed and educated about these risk factors, they are unable to modify their lifestyles, be proactive in their health care, or reduce their cardiovascular risks.