Women's Cardiac Center
Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Risk Factors of Women's Heart Disease

Although many common risk factors affect both women and men, other factors play a bigger role in the heart disease risk of women, and affect their chance of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

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In addition to certain types of chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, these factors are:


Over time, a high blood sugar level can lead to increased plaque buildup in your arteries. Diabetes and prediabetes raise the risk of CHD more in women than in men. In fact, having diabetes doubles a woman's risk of developing CHD.

Family history of heart disease

Your risk increases if your father or a brother was diagnosed with CHD before 55 years of age, or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed with CHD before 65 years of age.


Women who have abnormally high blood pressure, greater than 120/80 mmHg, are at increased risk for CHD.


Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop CHD as those who are physically active. 

Mental stress and depression

Stress can trigger your arteries to narrow. This can raise your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack. People who are depressed are two to three times more likely to develop CHD than people who are not. Depression is twice as common in women as in men.


You may have gone through early menopause, either naturally or because you had your ovaries removed. If so, you're twice as likely to develop CHD as women of the same age who aren't yet menopausal.


Women who carry much of their fat around the waist are at greatest risk for CHD. Women who carry most of their fat on their hips and thighs are at lower risk for CHD.

Pregnancy complications

If you had preeclampsia during pregnancy, you're twice as likely to develop heart disease as women who haven't had the condition.


Smoking exposes you to carbon monoxide. This chemical robs your blood of oxygen and triggers a buildup of plaque in your arteries. It also increases the risk of blood clots forming in your arteries. Blood clots can block plaque-narrowed arteries and cause a heart attack.

Learn more about the Women's Cardiac Center at the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute