Woman making heart shape with hands

Women's Heart Program

Whether you are living with heart disease or just want to protect your cardiac health, the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute has the expertise and resources to care for you. Heart disease is just as serious a health threat to women as it is to men. In the United States, more than 28 million women have some form of cardiovascular disease.

It's important to recognize that, in many ways, heart disease is different for women than it is for men. The more you know about how it affects women, the better prepared you'll be to safeguard your own heart health.

  • A woman's heart beats faster than a man's.
  • The average age for the onset of heart disease in women is 70; 60 for men.
  • Two-thirds of women who die of a heart attack experience no prior symptoms; half of men have prior warning signs.
  • 38 percent of women die within one year after a heart attack compared to 25 percent of men.
  • Women are less likely than men to believe they're having a heart attack and more likely to delay in seeking emergency treatment.

Heart disease is often a silent killer – especially in women. In fact, two in three women who die from a heart attack show no symptoms prior to the attack.

The good news is with advanced diagnostics, doctors are able to detect coronary-artery disease in its earliest stages.

The Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute gives you access to the full range of diagnostic tools, including those that have proven most accurate in detecting heart disease in women:

  • Stress echocardiograms
  • Nuclear-stress tests
  • Angiography
  • EBT (electron-beam tomography)

The best way to lower your risk is to raise your awareness. Understanding how different habits affect your heart – positively or negatively – puts you in control. Of course, there are some risk factors that you cannot control, such as getting older, your family history.

  • Don't smoke: A woman who smokes puts herself at as much as a six-times-higher risk for a heart attack than a nonsmoking woman. Using birth-control pills compounds the risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: The risk of heart disease is two to three times higher for women who are overweight – especially if the extra pounds are concentrated around the waist. Consider a weight-loss program.
  • Eat and drink sensibly: Choose low-fat, fiber-rich foods with no more than 30 percent of daily total calories from fat. Eat one to two meals each week high in omega-3 fatty acids and limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.
  • Get your exercise: Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, three to four days each week.
  • Lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol: Your total cholesterol should be no higher than 200 mg/dL. Your HDL (good cholesterol) should be at least 40 mg/dL.
  • Manage diabetes: The Swedish Diabetes Education Center provides the self-management education that people need to successfully manage their diabetes and reduce their risk of complications.
  • Get regular screenings: Get complete blood workups and cholesterol screenings at your yearly physical exam and get blood-pressure checks at least every two years.

Providers Specializing in Women's Heart Program

At Swedish, you'll have access to a vast network of dedicated and compassionate providers who offer personalized care by focusing on treatment, prevention and health education.