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Women Veterans Health Care

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Heart Health

Your heart health is determined by many different factors such as diet, exercise, family history, and individual risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking.

Your heart health is determined by many different factors such as diet, exercise, family history and individual risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking. All women Veterans need to be thinking about their heart health. Work with your VA primary care provider to understand your risks for heart disease and what you can do to protect your heart.

As a woman Veteran, you may have unique factors from your time in service that can increase your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in women (and men) in the United States, and Veterans are no exception. After being separated from the military for 2-5 years, a woman's risk for developing heart disease increases. In addition to the traditional risk factors such high blood pressure and diabetes, mental health concerns such as PTSD and depression, and experiences of trauma including military sexual trauma, can contribute to your risk.

What services does VA provide for heart health?

VA offers a variety of services to promote your heart health, including diagnosing and treating heart disease as well as life-long risk reduction. Your VA primary care provider will assess your risks and help you get started on a heart health plan. The best way to prevent heart disease is through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet
  • Striving for a healthy weight
  • Completing around 3 hours of exercise per week
  • Keeping conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure well-controlled
  • Managing your stress levels and practicing self-care
  • Aiming to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake

If focusing on all these factors is too much, choose a few of them to take action on. Focusing on a few of these is still beneficial to your heart health. If you need tests or treatment for heart disease, appointments and services will be coordinated through your VA primary care provider. All Veterans who are enrolled in VA healthcare are eligible for cardiovascular (heart) risk assessments, prevention services, and treatment. Talk to your VA primary care provider about tools available to prevent and manage heart disease.

The symptoms of a heart attack can be different in women versus men. Heart attack signs for women can be subtle and sometimes confusing. Like men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women may also experience other heart attack symptoms such as:

  • Arrythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Pressure, squeezing, or pain in chest
  • Cold sweat
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the jaw, arm, hand, shoulder, or back
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Vomiting or nausea

If you have symptoms of heart disease, or you are already diagnosed with a condition such as angina, heart attack, or heart failure, VA has resources for evaluation and treatment, including:

  • Echocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Stress testing
  • Cardiology clinics
  • Cardiac Catheterization and more

How do I access services for heart health at VA?

The first step to access heart health services at VA is to set up an appointment with your VA primary care provider. They will work with you to assess your needs and come up with a plan that is best for you. They can provide referrals to cardiology (heart specialists) if needed.

If you don't already use VA health care, you you may want to use the following online tools:

Find out if you are eligible for VA health care.

Enroll in VA health care if you haven't already.

Find your local VA and make an appointment.

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The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to women's health

If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:

  • Enrolling in VA health care if you have not already
  • Setting up a medical appointment in your area
  • Answering questions about eligibility (including questions about disability ratings) and other VA benefits like employment, education, and home loans

WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.

Where can I find more information, help and resources on heart health?

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The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to VA. The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to VA.
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