Women’s Heart Health Resources

Penny Anderson Women's Center for Cardiovascular Health

Too often, women are worried about the health of their family or others around them. Here’s what you need to know about taking care of your own heart.


When women do better, we all do better.

At the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF), we are committed to conducting innovative research to understand what risk factors and conditions are unique to women. We translate our learnings into best practices for health care providers and women of all ages. It’s time to empower women and their providers with the vital information needed to prevent and manage heart disease, so women of all ages can live healthy and happy lives.

Take a look at our timeline below to better understand women’s cardiovascular disease (CVD) cumulative risk throughout a lifetime. Then learn the steps you need to take to care for your heart.

Understanding Women's Cumulative Risk for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Through Life Stages


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Smoking and use of e-cigarettes

Smoking causes 1 of 3 deaths from CVD

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Smoking combined with birth control pills

This combination increases risk by 20%

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Pregnancy weight not lost

After one year, this increases risk

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Pregnancy conditions

Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension lead to higher risk

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Delivered premature or low birth-weight baby

Less than 37 weeks or 5 lbs, 8 oz leads to 1.5x increased risk of CVD

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Higher incidence in young women; depression leads to greater risk


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Elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol

Nearly 1 in 4 women have high LDL cholesterol

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Autoimmune disorders

Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis significantly increase risk

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Type 2 diabetes

2-3x times likely to have CVD


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Early menopause (under 45 years) leads to 4-5x greater CVD risk

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Cancer treatment

Link between cancer treatment and CVD

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Greater risk for a stroke when you are 60+ years of age

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High blood pressure

Nearly 1 in 2 women have high blood pressure or are taking blood pressure medication

Risk factors regardless of age include: Social Isolation/Loneliness    |    Racism    |    Sexism    |    Educational Opportunities    |    Access to Nutrition    |    Access to Healthcare    |    Socioeconomic Status    |    Neighborhood

The above visual display is intended to depict heart disease risk factors across a woman’s lifetime. Risk is cumulative, increases with age, and is impacted by many factors, including social realities. Click here to print our brochure on women's cardiovascular risk factors.

Birth Control & Heart Disease

For women with heart disease, contraceptive and pregnancy planning are essential to optimize your health. Deciding the type of birth control to use involves careful consideration of factors such as the contraceptive’s safety, effectiveness, and importantly, your preference.

Many factors can impact the best option for you, including your goals, health history, and any medications or supplements you may be taking.

Your heart health team can help you decide what’s best for you. To learn more about your options, click the links below to view and print helpful information:

English Infographic     Spanish Infographic

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Sleep & Heart Disease

During sleep your heart and vascular system get a much-needed chance to rest. As you enter deeper sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure slow down. Changes in heart rate and breathing during the night promote heart and vascular disease. A lack of sleep can trigger stress hormones that keep your blood pressure from dropping and promote chronic inflammation, putting the heart at increased risk. 

To learn more about sleep and heart disease, click below to view and print helpful information:

English Infographic

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Understand Your Risk for Heart Disease

Calculate Your Risk

More than 7 in 10 women do not know that they have heart disease until they have a heart attack. Use this online resource to calculate your risk for cardiovascular disease or ask your primary care provider to calculate your risk.

There are several non-traditional risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease as well, such as autoimmune disorders, cancer treatment and depression that lead to greater cumulative risk.

Reduce Your Risk with Healthy Lifestyle Choices

There are several lifestyle modifications you can make to lower your risk for heart and vascular disease! Check out our brochure and discuss your risk factors with your primary care physician: Understand Your Cardiovascular Risks

Learn about Cholesterol and Women's Heart Health

Did you know that nearly one in every four American women have high or borderline high cholesterol? In fact, many people may not realize that having high cholesterol levels is more common in women than in men. No matter your gender, it’s important to make sure you control your cholesterol to help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Read more

Impacts of Pregnancy and Menopause

Pregnancy: Women face unique risk factors in pregnancy that increase their risk of cardiovasular disease both in the short and long term. Conditions such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes confer a two- to seven-fold risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Learn more

Learn more about our BROACH initiative: The BROACH Initiative: Reaching More Young Women with Heart Disease Screenings

Menopause: Some things get better with age — going through menopause usually doesn’t make the list. As if hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes were not enough, complex hormonal changes that take place during menopause increase a woman’s risk for heart and vascular disease. This risk is exacerbated in women who experience menopause between ages 40-44. They are actually 40 percent more likely to suffer from heart and vascular disease, including having a heart attack, severe chest pain or stroke.

Mental Health and Heart Disease

One-third of all cardiovascular outcomes are related to mental health, whether it’s social isolation, anger, depression or anxiety, etc. Depression rates are three times higher in patients with heart disease, and women are much more likely to suffer from a mental health illness than men. That’s why it’s so important to take a proactive strategy to managing your mental health and well-being as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Read more from Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler here.

Know Your Symptoms - Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

We’ve all seen the movie scenes where a man gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the ground with a heart attack. In reality, most heart attacks are not that dramatic — they start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. The symptoms can be subtle and people aren’t sure what’s wrong. For women, the signs and symptoms are often less typical and sometimes confusing.

Call 911 within 5 minutes of the start of these warning signs:

  • Chest discomfort of any type: pain, pressure, fullness or squeezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort or radiating pain in the neck, jaw, arms, back or stomach with or without chest pain
  • Sweating at rest
  • Panic or anxiety with feeling of impending doom for no apparent reason
  • Other common signs may include lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting or severe indigestion 

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The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, we are dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, we can continue this life-saving work. Please make a gift to support the area of greatest need.

Research Milestone: FDA approves device used as alternative to open-heart

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Triclip team

We are honored to celebrate the culmination of years of research that has resulted in new technologies for patients! In the few last weeks, we announced a similar research milestone with the FDA approval of the TriClip system for tricuspid regurgitation. We celebrated this important milestone with local media KSTP-TV, who spotlighted the importance of this new technology. We were proud to be a leading clinical site led by Global PI Dr. Paul Sorajja and the MHIF research team who contributed significant data to the pivotal trial.