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Altru's HeartAdvantage

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attack and stroke, claims the lives of 504,000 American women every year - more than the next 16 causes of death combined, including breast cancer.

Altru's HeartAdvantage is here to help.  Here, you'll learn about risk factors, the signs & symptoms of heart disease in women, and some critical questions to ask your doctor. Altru is educating women at risk with preventative information and various treatments. By tailoring our approach to our regions needs, in hopes to lower Altru's CVD-related deaths.


  • One in 10 American women between the ages of 45 to 64 has some form of heart disease.
  • One in four women in the United States over age 65 has some form of heart disease.
  • A higher percentage of women than men, age 50 and older, have total blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher, a leading cause of heart disease.
  • Women are more likely than men to die of heart attacks within a few weeks after the attack, in part because women have heart attacks later in life than men.
  • Within one year after a heart attack, 38 percent of women will die (compared with 25 percent of men).
  • Within six years after a heart attack, 35 percent of women will have another one (compared with 18 percent of men), and 46 percent of women will experience heart failure (versus 22 percent of men).

Signs and Symptoms

Because many women don't know that they have heart disease, it's important to know the warning signs and when it's time to see your provider.  If you know what symptoms to look for, you can work with your physician to treat them early.

Your best defense is knowledge. Learn as much as you can about your own heart health and take an active role.

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

If you or a loved one experiences any of the following symptoms, get medical attention immediately.

  • Pain, squeezing, fullness or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and returns
  • Pain that moves to the shoulders, neck or arms
  • Chest discomfort, accompanied by lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, fatigue, nausea, or shortness of breath

Some less common symptoms are:

  • Unusual chest, stomach or abdominal pain
  • Nausea or dizziness (without chest pain)
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing without chest pain
  • Anxiety, weakness or fatigue for no apparent reason
  • Heart palpitations, breaking out in a cold sweat or paleness

Are You at Risk?

One of the main reasons heart disease kills so many American women is because many don't even know they have it.  Unfortunately, there are risk factors such as increasing age, family history and race that you can't change. The good news is many risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be controlled with lifestyle changes and/or medication.

Risks You Can Change

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Chronic stress
  • High triglyceride/cholesterol levels
  • Type 2 diabetes

Each risk factor increases a woman's danger of heart disease. And, having more than one risk factor is especially serious.  The message is clear: Every woman needs to take her heart disease risk seriously. Take action now to reduce risk.

Help Yourself

There is no better time than now to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). You are in charge of your own destiny.

  • Don't smoke, and if you do, quit.  Women who smoke are two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smoking women. Smoking also boosts the risk of stroke and cancer.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. It's important for a long, vigorous life. Overweight and obesity cause many preventable deaths.
  • Get moving. Make a commitment to be more physically active.  Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.
  • Eat for heart health. Choose a diet low in saturated fat trans fat, and cholesterol, and moderate in total fat.
  • Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides) and blood glucose. Work with your doctor to improve any numbers that are not normal.