Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the U.S., yet many women aren’t aware of this. Additionally, women from many minority communities are at greater risk for developing heart disease than other women.
When it comes to women Veterans, recent studies reveal:
- Black women Veterans have more conditions that can lead to heart disease than other women. These conditions include diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
- Women Veterans with physical disabilities are three times more likely to experience heart disease than all other women Veterans.
- Women Veterans who identify as a sexual minority are nearly twice as likely to experience heart disease than women Veterans who identify as heterosexual.
No one reason explains why minority women are affected more significantly when it comes to heart disease. It’s viewed as a result of many factors stacked together. Some contributing factors include heart disease that runs in families, higher levels of daily stress or living in areas where there are fewer healthy food options.
No matter what the reason, small changes every day can help reduce up to 80% of heart disease events. VA providers specializing in women’s health can give you information about lowering your risk factors and can help you make diet and exercise changes to lower your risks. VA is your partner in achieving your health goals.
At your next primary care visit, ask about:
- Nutritionists to help you plan a heart healthy, low-salt, low fat diet.
- Wellness activities like VA’s Whole Health Program that incorporate Yoga and Tai Chi.
- Women’s only support groups.
- VA’s Move! Weight Management Program.
- Smoking cessation programs.
The best way to take control of your heart health is to talk with your provider and make a personal plan to care for yourself at home. Target your main risk factor, whether it’s high blood pressure, weight, diabetes or smoking. Start slowly by adding a new physical activity to your routine, eating more fruits and vegetables or cutting back on any tobacco use.
Ask your provider for information about programs available at your medical center.
Understanding risk factors key to good heart health
Understanding your risk factors and how to combat them is key to maintaining good heart health and VA is here to support you. More information is available on the Women Veterans Health Care webpage.
Or, reach out to the Women Veterans Call Center at (855) 829-6626 or your local VA health center to get support.
Dr. Chelsea Cosby is the deputy director of Comprehensive Health, Women’s Health Services, Veterans Health Administration.