Does Heart Disease Affect Women Differently Than Men?


May 9th marks the beginning of National Women’s Health Week, and it’s a great opportunity to explore concerns and misconceptions surrounding heart disease in women. While several campaigns have been successful in raising awareness about the dangers and prevention of heart disease, many people still consider it to be an issue that almost exclusively affects men. 

However, women represent nearly half of all heart-disease-related deaths. According to the CDC, only 56% of women recognize heart disease as the leading cause of death for their gender. Stroke and heart disease are responsible for approximately one in every three deaths among women each year. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Nearly 80% of stroke and cardiac events can be prevented through education, informed choices, and better living. Learn how heart disease impacts women as well as how you can better protect yourself and your loved ones.

Education Is Key

Unfortunately, public perception of heart disease as a “man’s condition” has led to fewer women being informed about the risks it presents for them. In addition, the symptoms of heart attack can be different between men and women, making it harder for women to notice the signs if they don’t know what to look for. For these reasons, it’s important to stay informed when it comes to your heart health. Cardiovascular Institute of the South offers several female-focused resources related to the prevention of heart disease in women. In addition, our cardiovascular experts are available for health screenings and presentations for women’s groups to discuss these important issues.

Signs of a Heart Attack Can Differ Between Women and Men

Men and women can experience similar warning signs prior to a heart attack. These can include shortness of breath, chest pains, and pain in the upper body. However, women are more likely to experience less pronounced symptoms, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the jaw, shoulder, upper back, or neck
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, indigestion, or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

Understanding these signs is an important part of keeping yourself protected. It can also be beneficial to share this information with friends and family to help spread awareness.

Certain Risk Factors Impact Women Differently Than Men

Did you know that heart disease risk factors in women can be different as well? In fact, there are some risk factors that are exclusive to women. For example, when estrogen levels drop during menopause, it can have a negative impact on the blood vessels. Pregnancy can also increase a woman’s long-term risk for heart disease when combined with conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Additionally, several conditions that can increase the risk of both sexes tend to have a greater impact on women. These include inactivity, smoking, inflammatory diseases, depression, stress, and a family history of heart disease. 

Take a Stand Against Heart Disease in Women

Understanding how heart disease impacts women is the first step toward raising awareness and increasing prevention. Many women may focus on taking care of the needs of others while neglecting their own health. But your heart health is important, and you should prioritize it, giving it the care and attention it deserves. Consider scheduling an appointment with Cardiovascular Institute of the South for a cardiovascular screening. Let’s all take a stand against women’s heart disease and work toward a brighter, healthier future for everyone.

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CIS Staff

Written by CIS Staff