Women's Health USA 2007
Photographs of women's faces
Health Status > Health Indicators
Heart Disease and Stroke

In 2004, heart disease was the leading cause of death among women. Heart disease describes any disorder that prevents the heart from functioning normally. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, in which the arteries of the heart slowly narrow, reducing blood flow to the heart muscle. Risk factors include obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, and old age. While the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort, women are more likely than men to experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain.1

Stroke is a type of heart disease that affects blood flow. Warning signs are sudden and can include facial, arm or leg numbness, especially on one side of the body; severe headache; trouble walking; dizziness; a loss of balance or coordination; or trouble seeing in one or both eyes.1

In 2005, adult women under 45 years had a higher rate of heart disease than men of the same age (50.9 versus 35.2 per 1,000 adults, respectively). However, men had a slightly higher overall rate of heart disease than women. Heart disease rates among both sexes increased with age.

In 2004, women were less likely than men to undergo an operation on the cardiovascular system, (202.0 per 10,000 women and 277.7 per 10,000 men). For example, the rate of coronary artery bypass procedures was 8.3 per 10,000 women and 21.1 per 10,000 men.2

In 2005, the highest rate of heart disease was among non-Hispanic White women (128.7 per 1,000), followed by non-Hispanic Black women (107.1 per 1,000); Asian women had the lowest rate (51.1 per 1,000). Although non-Hispanic White women experience the highest rates of heart disease, deaths from heart disease are highest among non-Hispanic Black women.

1 American Heart Association. Heart Attack, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs. 2007. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/911-Warnings-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_305346_SubHomePage.jsp. Viewed 4/25/07.

2 Kozak LJ, DeFrances CJ, Hall MJ. National Hospital Discharge Survey: 2004 annual summary with detailed diagnosis and procedure data (Table 33). National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 13(162). 2006. http://www.cdc.gov. Viewed 4/18/07.


Back to top


Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.