One of every four female deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease, and often, women may not recognize the subtle symptoms of the disease. Some women have no symptoms, while others have pain in the neck, jaw or throat, or pain in the upper abdomen or back. For women, nausea and fatigue are common signs of an impending attack. Chest pain is often sharp or burning.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease in the United States, and can lead to a heart attack. CAD is caused when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through the body.

Chest pain, or angina, develops when the heart does not get enough blood and is the most common symptom of CAD. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart can’t pump blood the way that it should. An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, also can develop.

If you are overweight, eat unhealthy foods, smoke and do not exercise, you are at risk for CAD. A family history of heart disease increases your risk. But you can change your habits to reduce your risk and improve your overall health. Here’s how:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Make healthy food choices.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Start exercising and speak to your doctor about how to safely increase your activity level.
  • Discuss with your doctor if your cholesterol level, blood pressure and heart rate are in normal range or if you need medication to reduce your risk.