Heart Disease: Information Especially for Women

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, affects women differently than men.

Coronary Heart Disease is the #2 cause of death in Vermont (cancer is #1) for women, and the #1 cause of death in the U.S. for women.

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis. The buildup of plaque occurs over many years.

Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries.

Other types of heart disease that affect women

Other types of heart disease, such as coronary microvascular disease and broken heart syndrome [external link to] also pose a risk for women. These disorders, which mainly affect women, are not as well understood as coronary heart disease. The following links will provide you with more information about these types of heart disease:

Women and heart attacks

Women and men sometimes experience a heart attack in different ways. Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable, like the image of the elephant sitting on your chest. But in fact, symptoms can be subtler and sometimes confusing.

Visit the American Heart Association’s Heart Attack Signs in Women to learn more about how heart attacks affect women.

Ladies First program

Ladies First helps eligible women get breast, cervical and heart health screenings. Our members get free mammograms, Pap tests and heart health checkups (blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar testing). Ladies First also pays for diagnostic tests when needed; our nurse case manager is available to provide support and guidance. We help women make positive changes by referring members to free help for quitting smoking, nutrition counseling and health coaching, and by paying for certain weight loss programs.

Member Services

Phone: 1-800-508-2222 or TTY/TDD Dial 711 and give the Ladies First number, 1-800-508-2222.

Call our Member Services Coordinator anytime you have questions about the program or need help with your health care. She can help you:

  • Understand what is covered and how the program works
  • Find out if you’re eligible for Ladies First
  • Apply for the program
  • Find a health care provider
  • Get to the appointment if you need transportation

Ladies First

Vermont Department of Health
P.O. Box 70, Drawer 38 (LF)
Burlington, VT 05402-0070