Women Veterans Health Care
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 think 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 the 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 health care 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.
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:
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?
- VA Tobacco Cessation Resources offers a variety of resources and programs to help Veterans quit tobacco.
- Check out VA's Mindfulness Coach App. It was designed help Veterans, service members, and others learn how to practice mindfulness.
- Visit VA's MOVE! Weight Management Program for the most up-to-date approaches for weight management.
- American Heart Association (AHA) funds heart disease medical research studies and offers comprehensive information about various heart conditions and treatments. * They also sponsor "Go Red for Women". *
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips on preventing heart disease and what you can do about it. *
- Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over five years. *
* By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
† VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked website.