Dr. Anjali Bhandarkar, RWJ Medical Associates, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

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As a woman, what are some of my risk factors for developing heart disease? What can I do to help prevent heart disease?

Approximately 1 in 4 women die of heart disease each year, making heart disease the No. 1 killer of women. A family history of premature heart disease is more common in women, and a woman’s risk of heart disease also increases following menopause.

Heart attacks are also more difficult to recognize and diagnose, as women are more likely to present without chest pain than men are. This, in turn, makes women more difficult to treat in a timely fashion.

Though you cannot avoid menopause or change your family history, there are steps you can take to prevent heart disease:

Adopt a healthier, low fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry and whole grains.

Maintain a healthy weight and a body mass index of less than 25.

Get plenty of exercise. Walking just 90 minutes each week is enough to make a difference.

If you’re a smoker, quit. The increased risk of heart disease disappears within two to three years of quitting smoking.

Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol so you can better control it.

— Dr. Anjali Bhandarkar, RWJ Medical Associates, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjuhh.edu.