World Heart Day 2012: Women and Children at Risk

World Heart Day 2012: Women and Children at Risk

by Posted on: September 26, 2012Categories: LiveWell 24/7   

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. This year, World Heart Day shines a spotlight on those who often go unnoticed when it comes to heart disease: women and children…

September 29 is World Heart DayExternal Web Site Icon. The World Heart Federation created World Heart Day in 2000 to remind people of the enormity of the problem and of ways to prevent cardiovascular disease related deaths. In 2012, campaign activities focus on taking action to prevent heart disease in women and children.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary heart disease (CHD), which can cause heart attack, chest pain, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Who’s at Risk?


Even though it is often considered a “man’s disease,” heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States, accounting for 25% of all female deaths each year. Even women who have no symptoms may be at risk for heart disease. Almost two-thirds of the women who die suddenly of CHD had no previous symptoms.1

Standard tests for CHD are not designed to detect another type of heart disease, coronary microvascular diseaseExternal Web Site Icon (MVD). MVD mainly affects women and is not as well understood as CHD. Standard test results for women may show that they are at low risk for heart disease, even if they have coronary MVD. Research is ongoing to learn more about coronary MVD and its causes. For more information about MVD can be found at Web Site Icon.


The risk for heart disease can begin in childhood. An unhealthy diet and sedentary behaviors early in life can lead to heart disease in adulthood, even in children with no family history of heart disease.

CDC estimates that more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Children and adolescents who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults.2–5 This means they are at higher risk for adult health problems, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6

Higher sodium intake is associated with higher blood pressure in children and adolescents. High blood pressure is associated with early development of cardiovascular disease and risk for premature death. A recent study found that the impact of high sodium consumption—and corresponding risk for high blood pressure—is even greater among young people who are overweight or obese.7

What You Need to Know

The Risks

Early and ongoing heart disease prevention is important. At least 80% of deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided, according to the World Heart Federation. Many CHD risk factors are preventable and controllable, even if you or someone you love already has CHD. Common risk factors that increase the chances of having a heart attack include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Previous heart attack or stroke.

Other risk factors include:

  • Overweight and obesity.
  • Poor diet, including foods high in salt, fat, cholesterol, and sugar and low in fruits and vegetables.
  • Physical inactivity.

The Solution

Simple lifestyle changes and medications can help lower the risk for heart disease, such as:

  • Remember the ABCS of heart health:
    • Appropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it.
    • Blood pressure control.
    • Cholesterol management.
    • Smoking cessation.
  • Talk to your health care professional about your risks and strategies for prevention.
  • Eat healthy for your heart, including lots of fruits and vegetables and foods low in salt, cholesterol, and sugar.
  • Get moving with 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week.
  • Get help to quit smoking—and if you don’t smoke, don’t start.

You can learn more about heart disease and stroke preventionExternal Web Site Icon with the Million Hearts™ initiative, which aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Learn More

For additional information please contact the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention


-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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