The American Heart Association has identified several risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The more risk factors a woman has, the greater her risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Some of these risk factors cannot be controlled, such as family history, age, and race and gender, but others can be modified to control and lower risk. Risk factors that can be controlled by lifestyle change or medical intervention:
- Tobacco smoke - Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular heart disease among women. Women who smoke have an increased risk for ischemic stroke and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Constant exposure to others' tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke) at work or at home also increases the risk, even for nonsmokers. Women smokers who use birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than nonsmokers who use them.
- High blood cholesterol - High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and also increases the risk of stroke. Studies show that women's cholesterol is higher than men's from age 55 on. High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) raise the risk of heart disease and heart attack. High levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) lower the risk of heart disease. Research has shown that low levels of HDL cholesterol seem to be a stronger risk factor for women than for men.
- High blood pressure - High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and the most important risk factor for stroke. Women have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure if they are obese, have a family history of high blood pressure, are pregnant, take certain types of birth control pills or have reached menopause. African-American women have higher average blood pressure levels compared to Caucasian women.
- Physical inactivity - Various studies have shown that lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and indirectly increases the risk of stroke. Overall, they found that heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in inactive people than in those who are more active. When you're inactive and eat too much, you can gain excess weight. In many people overweight can lead to high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends accumulating at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week.
- Obesity and overweight - If you have too much fat - especially if a lot of it is located in your waist area - you're at higher risk for health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
- Diabetes mellitus - Adults with diabetes have have heart disease death rates that are two to four times those of adults without diabetes. People with diabetes often have high blood pressure and high cholesterol and are overweight, increasing their risk even more.
Risk Factors that for heart disease that cannot be controlled:
- Increasing age - As women grow older, their risk of heart disease and stroke begins to rise and keeps rising with age.
- Sex (Gender) - Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women, and they have attacks earlier in life. Each year about 55,000 more women than men have strokes, and about 60 percent of total stroke deaths occur in women.
- Heredity (family history) - Both women and men are more likely to develop heart disease or stroke if their close blood relatives have had them. Race is also a factor. Black women have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke than white women. Compared with whites, African-American men and women are more likely to die of stroke.
- Previous heart attack or stroke or TIA - Women who've had a heart attack are at higher risk of having a second heart attack; 22 percent of women ages 40 to 69 who survive a first heart attack will have another heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease within five years, and 22 percent ages 40 to 69 who survive a first stroke will have another within five years. A transient ischemic attack (TIA or "mini-stroke") also is a risk factor and predictor of stroke.
- Birthing Center
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Pediatric Center
- Reston Therapy & Fitness
- Northern Virginia Thoracic Oncology Program
- Ann B. Rodriguez Cancer Center
- Comprehensive GI Center
- Robotic Surgery
- Diabetes Center
- Emergency Care
- Heart and Vascular Care
- Total Joint Center
- Women's Imaging Center
- Women's Services
- Spirit of Women Network
- Cups Full of Hope