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The Heart Truth

The Heart Truth

Heart disease is a deadly threat to women. Yet, very few know the facts about the illness can cost them their lives.

Knowledge is power, and the more a woman knows about heart disease, the better chance she has of surviving it. According to the American Heart Association, the alarming fact of the matter is this: cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year. That is approximately one woman every minute, and the cause of more deaths than all cancers combined. Fortunately, we have the power to change those numbers—80% of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.

The first step to making a difference is to understand the misconceptions about heart disease in women, beginning with the fact that heart disease does not affect all women the same, and warning signs for women are not the same as men. Although those facts are largely misunderstood, they only begin to scratch the surface of the misconceptions that could be putting you at risk.


* Courtesy of the American Heart Association

  • Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That is approximately one woman every minute.
  • About 80% of cardiovascular diseases may be prevented.
  • 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and their survival rates continue to worsen.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in every 31 deaths of American women is from breast cancer each year, 1 in every 3 deaths is from heart disease.

These facts shed light on a heartbreaking truth: we need to do a better job of educating ourselves and the women in our lives about heart disease. More education equals more lives saved. Here is what you need to know about the causes of heart disease and ways you can prevent it from threatening your life.


Although heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, only one in five American women believe it is the greatest threat to their health. Also worrisome is the fact that women are less likely to call 9-1-1 when they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. It simply does not occur to them to make that emergency call. When you consider that the bulk of media attention on heart disease is focused on men, it is not surprising why women do not relate their symptoms to a heart attack and do not seek immediate help.


Heart disease affects the blood vessels and cardiovascular system. A buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries, a process called atherosclerosis, is the most common cause of heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease. Numerous problems can result from atherosclerosis, which narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. When blood flow is difficult, a blood clot can form and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Unhealthy lifestyle habits are the leading contributors to heart disease. Lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking, and being overweight can all lead to atherosclerosis.

But the concern doesn’t end there. Heart disease can appear in other forms as well, including:

  • Heart failure or congestive heart failure: This means that the heart is still working, but it isn’t pumping blood as well as it should, or getting enough oxygen.
  • Arrhythmia or an abnormal rhythm of the heart: This means the heart is either beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly. This can affect how well the heart is functioning and whether or not the heart is able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
  • Heart valve problems: This can lead to the heart not opening enough to allow proper blood flow. Sometimes the heart valves don’t close and blood leaks through, or the valve leaflets (strong, thin flaps of tissue that open to let blood move forward through the heart) bulge or slip into the upper chamber, causing blood to flow backward through them.


Many things can put you at risk for these problems – some you can control, and others are simply out of your hands. But studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Here are a few lifestyle changes you make to maintain a healthy heart:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage your blood sugar
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Know your family history
  • Stay active
  • Lose or manage your weight
  • Eat healthy


Our community is at the heart of everything we do. That is why 37 years ago, we brought heart care to Visalia and the greater Central California region. It all started with cardiac catheterization, a procedure that helped us tell patients how well their hearts were working. While that remains an important offering today, we now offer a full range of cardiovascular services, including cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, non-invasive cardiology, advanced diagnostics, same-day discharge, cardiac rehabilitation, and much more. We also operate five cardiac catheterization labs, two cardiovascular operating rooms, and one hybrid operating room.

Kaweah Health took heart care to great new heights in 2019 when it proudly affiliated with Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular, and Thoracic Institute, ranked #1 in the nation for heart care since 1995 by U.S. News & World Report. As affiliates, Kaweah Health and Cleveland Clinic’s heart program share best practices in patient care, outcomes measurement, quality reporting, and clinical research. In addition, physician teams from both entities work together to accelerate advances in heart care treatments and protocols.

The quality and breadth of services we offer in a community this size often amazes experts, and in 2021, Healthgrades, a national benchmarking and reporting agency, released a study in which Kaweah Health was named among the top 5% of the nation’s hospitals and recognized as one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals™ for Cardiac Surgery for five years in a row. Additionally, Kaweah Health was a Five-Star Award Recipient for the treatment of heart failure, heart attack, coronary bypass, and valve surgery – and for the sixth year in row, received a Cardiac Surgery Excellence Award. These honors, as well as others in various specialties, helped make Kaweah Health the most awarded hospital in the Central Valley.


Although being honored as one of the nation’s best health providers is an outstanding achievement and demonstrates our commitment to being a world-class organization, the true honor for Kaweah Health lies in the life-saving care we provide the community. There is still quite a bit of work to be done to make heart disease a thing of the past. But the most important lesson to remember and share is that with the right information, education, and care, heart disease in women can be treated, prevented, and even ended. Educate yourself and take action against heart disease. Say goodbye to a broken heart, and hello to a fresh start with a healthy, happy heart.