7 Modifiable Heart Disease Risk Factors for Women

Patient Expert
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Heart disease is a major health issue for women. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are modifiable risk factors that we can work with our doctors to address and lower our risks. We have more control that we may think, and that’s empowering!

Cholesterol levels

Do you know what your cholesterol levels should be? Do you know what they are? Working with our doctors to maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels can significantly lower or heart disease risk.

High Blood Pressure

Again, do you know what your blood pressure is? Do you know what it should be? Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels can be helped along by proper nutrition and adequate physical activity, both of which are great for reducing our risk of heart disease.


What woman isn’t concerned about her weight? Reducing our risk of heart disease is another reason to maintain a healthy weight. When it comes to a healthy weight, “diet” really is a four-letter word. It makes us think of deprivation and something temporary. Working toward a permanent healthy way of eating is the way to go.

Physical inactivity

One of the most significant risk factors for heart disease is physical inactivity. Other health issues and age can make exercise seem impossible, but it seldom is. Our doctors can suggest healthy ways of exercise or refer us to an exercise physiologist who can help us devise a safe and appropriate exercise plan.


Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by two to four times. Also, women who smoke have a 25% higher risk of developing heart disease as compared to men who smoke. As difficult as it is to quit smoking, quitting can significantly reduce our risk of both heart disease and stroke. See Quit Smoking with These Behavior Swaps.


Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without the condition. That’s the bad news. The good news is that diabetes is highly controllable. Todays’ treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are better than ever, allowing us to get our glucose levels controlled and keep them that way. For more on diabetes and heart disease, see Diabetes.


Attitude is seldom listed as a modifiable risk factor. When faced with their list of risk factors, too many people dismiss them, thinking, “something’s going to get me anyway.” If we go into working to reduce our risk factors with an attitude that we can’t do it, it’s doubtful that we can. In psychology, that’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” A positive, can-do attitude wins every time.