Manataka American Indian Council


Proudly Presents










Minority Women and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Native women.  Heart disease has also become a major cause of disability and hospitalizations for American Indians/Alaska Natives. More than half of American Indians/Alaska Natives have at least one risk factor for heart disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking.



Heart disease is a group of diseases of the heart and the blood vessel system in the heart. Coronary heart disease, the most common type, affects the blood vessels of the heart. It can cause angina or a heart attack. Angina is a pain in the chest that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Having angina means you're more likely to have a heart attack. A heart attack happens when a blood vessel is blocked for more than 20 minutes. 


Signs of a heart attack:


pain or discomfort in the center of the chest for more than 20 minutes

pain or discomfort lasting more than 20 minutes in other parts of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach

other symptoms, including shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air), breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), or feeling faint


Other symptoms women may have include:

unusual tiredness

trouble sleeping

problems breathing

indigestion (upset stomach)

anxiety (feeling uneasy or worried)


If you have any of these symptoms, call 911.

You have the power to fight heart disease! Read on for some tips on keeping your heart healthy.


Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. For help along the way, check out our Quitting Smoking section.

Keep a healthy weight.


Get moving. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, most days of the week. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, walk during breaks at work.


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).



  1. American Indian and Alaska Native Heart Disease and Stroke Fact Sheet This Web page lists facts and statistics about heart disease and stroke among American Indians and Alaska Natives. It also provides links to publications on how to reduce your risk.

  2. American Indian and Alaska Native People: Be Active for Your Heart! Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives. This Web site offers insight about how to keep your heart healthy by staying active and explains the benefits of staying active, ranging from weight loss to strengthening your heart and lungs.

  3. American Indian and Alaska Native People: Keep the Harmony Within You Check Your Blood Pressure! Being aware of your blood pressure is vital to preventing stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and blindness. The information in this fact sheet includes tips on how to lower your blood pressure through healthy eating and physical activity.

  4. American Indian and Alaska Native People: Treat Your Heart to a Healthy Celebration! Proper nutrition is your way to a healthy heart. This document provides insight on eating the right kinds of foods to improve and maintain your health. It offers a list of foods, as well as ways for preparing them, to ensure healthy eating. Lean cut beef, fish, corn, and rice are all tasty examples of a healthy diet.

  5. American Indian and Alaska Native Women's Health This site offers information for health service providers and consumers about American Indian and Alaska Native women's health. It discusses cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and access to care.

  6. American Indian Health This Web site is an information portal to information about the health of native peoples of the United States. The topics include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and environmental health.

  7. Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke Among American Indians and Alaska Natives The Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke Among American Indians and Alaska Natives is the fourth in a series of CDC atlases related to cardiovascular disease. However, it is the first to focus on geographic patterns of heart disease and stroke mortality and risk factors for a specific racial/ethnic group in the United States. The Atlas provides insights into the geographic disparities in heart disease and stroke experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives.

  8. Fact Sheet Heart Disease This publication shows why women should be aware of heart disease. It also includes information about the signs of heart disease, risk factors, how you can reduce your risk, and the treatment for this disease.

  9. Heart Disease and American Indians/Alaska Natives This Web page provides statistics about the incidence, risk factors, and mortality rate of heart disease among American Indians/Alaska Natives.

  10. Heart Truth for Women: An Action Plan Good news! Heart disease is a problem you can do something about. This fact sheet will help you find out your personal risk of heart disease. Then, it will show you how to take steps to improve your heart health and reduce your chances of developing heart disease.

  11. 5 Medication-free Strategies to Keep Your Heart Healthy (Copyright Mayo Clinic) These five simple steps can help you decrease the risk of developing heart disease. These steps include lessening or stopping tobacco use, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising.

  12. American Indians/Alaska Natives and Cardiovascular Diseases Statistics (Copyright American Heart Association) This publication discusses factors behind the high incidence of heart disease and stroke among American Indians and Alaska Natives. It provides statistics on strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.


  1. Indian Health Service

  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH, HHS

  3. American Heart Association

  4. Women's Heart Foundation

  5. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women With Heart Disease

Source: Minority Women's Health > American Indians/Alaska Natives > Health Topics