Photo: Levi Brown
A one-minute refresher on how the heart works...and what happens when it doesn't.
Blood Pressure: The amount of force against the walls of your arteries, which is expressed in two numbers, ideally reading below 120/80. The first number is your systolic pressure (measured when the heart pumps); the second is your diastolic pressure (measured when the atria and ventricles are filling).
Atherosclerosis: A buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which narrows the space through which the blood flows, causing your blood pressure to rise.
Angina pectoris: Severe chest pain, which may spread to your back, arms, and neck, caused by a temporarily insufficient blood supply to the heart. A 2010 study found that women with serious angina were three times more likely than men to develop severe coronary artery disease.
Heart attack: Also called myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when the buildup of plaque in the arteries blocks blood flow to part of the heart muscle, depriving it of nutrients and causing cells to die off.
Atrial or ventricular fibrillation: A condition in which the atria or ventricles become unstable and lose their ability to properly contract. Atrial fibrillation sometimes produces blood clots, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
Percentage of women in the United States (totaling 42 million) who suffer from cardiovascular disease, which includes hypertension, coronary heart disease, and angina.
Number of deaths a year among American women due to cardiovascular disease (making it the leading killer of women), followed by cancer (270,000) and chronic lower respiratory disease (67,000).
Average number of years a normal life span is shortened by a heart attack.
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