Risk Factors

What are the factors that put women at higher risk of developing heart disease?

There are some primary risk factors in women for developing heart disease (many of which overlap with men) such as:

  • Family history of premature heart disease (First degree male relative under age 50, or female relative under age 60).
  • Age > 40
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Diabetes
  • Active Smoker
  • Obesity (BMI > 30), Overweight with a Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Excessive Alcohol intake (more than 2 drinks/day)
  • Chronic Kidney disease
  • Diet: High intake of red and processed meats, sweets, fried foods, and refined grains

However, the relative importance of these risk factors may differ between women and men. In particular, hormonal status, diabetes, smoking, and a family history of premature congestive heart disease appear to be more important in women.

There are some women-specific risk factors:

  • Post-menopausal status, especially if on hormonal replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy-related complications (eg, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, eclampsia, spontaneous pregnancy loss/miscarriage)
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Breast cancer treatment
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea
What can women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit or don't start smoking
  • Eat a diet that's low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt
  • Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day
  • Lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress.
  • It’s also important to take prescribed medications appropriately, such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners and aspirin.

Signs and Symptoms for Women

Heart Attack
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper back pain
  • Indigestion o Heartburn
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Upper body discomfort
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)
Heart Failure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen
  • Sudden Weakness
  • Paralysis (inability to move)
  • Numbness of the face/arms/legs, especially on one side of the body

Other symptoms may include: confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness, or a sudden and severe headache.


Make an appointment with one of our female cardiologists.

Schedule a visit

Dr. Jennifer Rodriguez

Meridian, MS
All of our CIS physicians are committed to women’s cardiovascular health. Click here for a full list of our physicians.