Four Common Heart Risk Factors For Women

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Women's Health, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

There are four key heart risk factors that affect women more than men. They include:

Diabetes. Diabetic women have a higher risk for heart disease than diabetic men. This is because the incidence of diabetes and its complications (including heart disease) is much higher in women. If you are a diabetic woman, your risk for heart disease is five to seven times normal, compared with a risk of only two to three times normal for a diabetic man. For you, proper heart sense means you should increase your physical activity and adhere to good cardiovascular nutrition to maintain a healthy body weight.

Overweight. Women have a higher heart disease risk from being overweight than men do. Studies indicate that being only 20 pounds overweight doubles a woman’s risk of heart disease. If you are overweight, I don’t want you to go on a diet. Instead, get physically active—it’s your most powerful weapon against fat—and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and lean poultry.   That’s the “Dr. Sinatra” way to safe weight loss.

Cholesterol. Women have a higher risk for heart disease than men if they have low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. For men, high levels of LDL present a greater risk, but for women, research indicates that a low HDL, not a high LDL, is the more significant risk factor for developing heart disease. The good news is that HDL is sensitive to factors such as smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise. So you can easily increase your HDL cholesterol by quitting smoking and dropping excess weight through a combination of healthy heart nutrition and physical activity.

High Triglycerides. When you get your cholesterol checked, also have your doctor check your level of triglycerides, which are another type of blood fat. A high triglyceride level (above 200 mg/dL) is more dangerous for women than for men, especially if you are a diabetic. Diabetic women with high triglycerides are up to 200 times more liekly to develop heart disease. A healthy triglycerides level can be obtained through exercise and weight control.

Though you should take the above risk factors very seriously, I want you to keep in mind that you can substantially reduce all of them. There are no secrets to doing this. Healthy eating, weight control, and regular physical activity are your weapons for keeping heart disease at bay.

For more information on heart risk factors or other cardiovascular problems for women, visit


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