Understanding and Preventing Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing more deaths than all forms of cancer combined. “But the signs of heart disease in women can differ from those in men, so many women do not recognize when their heart is in danger,” says Maria Demori, MD, a cardiologist with Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute. Although chest pain is still the main symptom, women more often than men experience atypical symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Light headedness
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back, neck or jaw pain
  • Nausea, vomiting

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor for a diagnosis.

Several factors can increase your risk for heart disease, including:

High Cholesterol.

There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL or “bad” cholesterol, which sticks to your blood vessels and arteries, and HDL or “good” cholesterol, which prevents clogging in the arteries. High LDL cholesterol can build up in the inner wall of your arteries, harden and turn into plaque. This causes blockages that can lead to a stroke, heart attack or blood clot.

High Blood Pressure.

Women have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure if they have reached menopause, have a family history of high blood pressure, or are 20 pounds or more overweight.


Smokers are four times more likely to suffer from heart disease or a stroke. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your heart, damages your blood vessels and increases your risk for a blood clot.


Having diabetes doubles your risk for a heart attack or stroke by causing high blood glucose levels and damaging nerves and blood vessels.

Excess Weight.

Women with excess weight around the stomach are especially at risk. Weight carried here produces hormones and inflammatory substances that make their way into the liver and muscles, causing imbalances in the body that also can affect your heart.

Screening for Heart Disease

The Prevention and Wellness Program at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute provides screenings to test for potential heart issues. These include lipid screenings to determine cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and the coronary calcium score screening to assess calcium buildup on the walls of the coronary arteries.

We’ll also help you make lifestyle changes — from diet management and exercise planning to quitting smoking — to get your heart and health on the right track.  For information, visit or call 321.843.2584.