Health Status > Health Indicators
In 2003, heart disease was the leading cause of
death for women. Heart disease describes any disorder that prevents
the heart from functioning normally. The most common cause of heart
disease is coronary heart disease, in which the arteries of the
heart slowly narrow, reducing blood flow. Risk factors include obesity,
lack of physical activity, smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension,
and old age. Although some risk factors cannot be modified, a diet
low in saturated fat and full of fruits and vegetables can help
lessen or eliminate several of these risk factors.
In 2004, women under 45 years of age had a higher
rate than their male counterparts (50.3 versus 39.4 per 1,000 population,
respectively). However, men had a slightly higher overall rate of
heart disease than women. Rates of heart disease among both men
and women increased substantially with age and were highest among
those 75 years and older, which demonstrates the chronic nature
of the disease.
Rates of heart disease among women differ by
race and ethnicity. In 2004, the highest rate occurred among non-Hispanic
White women (125.2 per 1,000), followed by non-Hispanic Black women
(98.3 per 1,000); Asian women had the lowest rate (35.8 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. In order to increase awareness about the risks of heart
disease, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services launched a campaign in 2003
called “The Heart Truth.” The red dress that represents
the campaign is now commonly recognized as the national symbol for
women and heart disease awareness.