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FDA Helps Women Get Heart Smart

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More women die from heart disease than from any other cause. In fact, one in four women in the United States dies from heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

"The risk of heart disease increases for everyone as they age," says cardiologist Shari Targum, M.D., a medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "For women, the risk goes up after menopause, but younger women can also develop heart disease."

FDA offers many resources to help educate women of all ages about the safe use of FDA-approved drugs and devices for the treatment and prevention of heart disease. FDA has fact sheets, videos, and other web-based tools on heart disease and conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure that may increase a woman's risk for heart disease.

FDA created the "Heart Health for Women" site to connect women to FDA resources to support heart-healthy living. Visit the website at: www.fda.gov/womenshearthealth

"I encourage women of all ages to look to FDA for resources to help them reduce their risk for heart disease and make informed decisions about their health," says Marsha Henderson, director of the Office of Women's Health at FDA.

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Heart Health for Women

When you think about heart disease, you probably imagine heart attacks and chest pain. But women need to know that heart health is about more than just heart attacks. Women need to take steps to reduce their risk for heart disease:

  • Manage conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that can increase your risk for heart disease.
  • Learn to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack in women, including nausea, anxiety, an ache or feeling of tightness in the chest, and pain in the upper body.
  • Use the Nutrition Label to make heart-healthy food choices.
  • Daily use of aspirin is not right for everyone. Talk with a health care professional before you use aspirin as a way to prevent heart attacks.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. See our booklet to learn more about medicines to help you quit.
  • Talk to a health professional about whether you can participate in a clinical trial for a heart medication or procedure. Visit the FDA Patient Network to learn more about clinical trials.

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Menopause and Heart Health

"Menopause does not cause heart disease," says Targum. "But the decline in estrogen after menopause may be one of several factors in the increase in heart disease risk." Other risks, such as weight gain, may also increase around the time of menopause.

Hormone therapy is used to treat some of the problems women have during menopause. "However, the American Heart Association recommends against using post-menopausal estrogen hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease," says Targum.

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Make a Plan, Take Action

Work with your health care team to make a plan for your heart health. Whatever your regimen, make sure to keep a list of your medicines and bring it with you to all of your appointments. Download a medication booklet and visit the FDA website for updates on medicine, nutrition and more.

May 23, 2013

For more about food, medicine, cosmetic safety and other topics for your health, visit FDA.gov/ForConsumers.
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