Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, however it is also one of the most preventable. Why should women be truly concerned? There are many gender-specific risks at that come into play with heart disease and females. It is essential for women to have a thorough understanding of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and aim to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Below are aspects of how heart disease affects women in particular.

  • Heart attack symptoms can appear less severe.

Most people associate chest pain as the main symptom of an oncoming heart attack. However, the other associated symptoms are far more common in women, which includes fatigue, nausea and sweating, to name a few. Because those symptoms are common in various illnesses, the tendency to overlook or downplay the symptoms is high.

  • Smoking is particularly dangerous for women and their cardio health

Women smokers are more likely to have a heart attack as male smokers. Women are also less likely to succeed in quitting and more likely to pick up the habit again. Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which includes coronary heart disease and stroke. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build up of fatty material that narrows the artery.

  • Pregnancy complications can signal future heart trouble

Gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy could signal future heart trouble.  Although not completely understood, if you had any of these conditions during pregnancy, you should discuss it with your physician for a long-term health plan.

  • Diabetes poses a particular threat

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women more than it does in men, likely because women with diabetes more often have added risk factors, such as obesity. In women who’ve already had a heart attack, diabetes doubles the risk for a second heart attack and increases the risk for heart failure.

  • Birth control can affect your heart health

Birth control, which can contain the hormone progesterone, can increase blood pressure in some women. As a woman ages, she may also have increases in blood pressure or cholesterol. If you’ve taken birth control with progesterone, be sure to get regular checkups to check for hypertension and cholesterol levels.

  • Age and family history

Women typically develop heart disease about a decade later than men—which is 65 in women. Talk to your parents, grandparents and siblings to find out if premature heart disease has affected close family.