NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — February is American Heart Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

But Dr. Icy Fergus, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, says there are some ways to prevent heart disease.

Women should start to get screened for cardiovascular disease (CVD) at age 20. Make sure you know your family history and talk to your doctor about heart disease.

The key personal health numbers that help determine risk for heart disease are blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index and total cholesterol, including HDL (good) cholesterol.

Even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can lower your risk by as much as 80%. Healthy changes include moving more, eating smart and managing your blood pressure.

Fergus says more work is needed to close gender disparity gaps when it comes to CVD research and clinical trials participation. Clinical trials have not always adequately enrolled women or analyzed sex-specific differences in the data, and women, especially women of color, continue to be underrepresented in research globally.

There are some unique risk factors for women.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of all maternal death. There are four key risk factors for CVD-related maternal mortality: race/ethnicity, age, hypertension and obesity. Non-Hispanic black women have a 3.4 times higher risk of dying from CVD-related pregnancy complications compared with non-Hispanic white women.


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