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Asian-American Women And Heart Disease

How Are We Different?

Overall, Asian-American women have much lower rates of heart disease than other women. Yet, heart disease is still the second leading cause of death for this group. And, importantly, heart disease rates vary greatly among subgroups of Asian-Americans. Heart disease strikes Asian-Indians and other South Asians especially hard. In the United States, the heart disease rate is four times higher for Asian-Indians than for whites. Heart disease also tends to affect South Asians at a younger age. Genetics and lifestyle factors both play a role in heart disease risk.

What Can I Do?

There's good news too: You can take action and lower your chance of developing heart disease and its risk factors. In fact, women can lower their heart disease risk by as much as 82% just by leading a healthy lifestyle. This fact sheet gives steps you can take to protect your heart health.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for heart disease. Asian-Americans need to be aware that their heart disease risk goes up with even a small amount of weight gain. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Make physical activity a habit. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
    • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or,
    • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or,
    • A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity and,
    • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days of the week
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruit. Choose lean meats and low-fat cheese and dairy products. Limit foods that have lots of saturated fat, like butter, whole milk, baked goods, ice cream, fatty meats, and cheese.
  • Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) and blood glucose (sugar). Follow your doctor’s orders to keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels under control.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit.
Questions To Ask My Doctor

For women who do not speak English comfortably, choosing a doctor who speaks the native language (or who has translators available) may make the health-care experience more valuable.

Talking to your doctor about any health concern is important. Let your doctor know you are working on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. First, learn what is considered normal.

  1. What is my risk for heart disease?
  2. What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
  3. What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood and food.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
  4. What are my "body mass index" (BMI) and waist measurement? Do they mean that I need to lose weight for my health?
  5. What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I'm at risk for diabetes? If so, what do I need to do about it?
  6. What other screening tests for heart disease do I need?
  7. What can you do to help me quit smoking?
  8. How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
  9. What's a heart healthy eating plan for me?
  10. How can I tell if I may be having a heart attack?

Be honest about your concerns and get all your questions answered. Make sure you understand what the doctor tells you.

For more information about disparities facing Asian-American women, visit, a website with user-friendly health information about disease prevention, detection and control for people of color.

Last updated September 30, 2010