Why Woman Are Prone to Heart Disease

Written by Clinical Research Associates staff

There is a common— and dangerous—misconception that heart disease is not nearly as much of a problem for women as it is for me. While men in their 40s are at higher risk, women become more at risk as they age. Eventually women are as prone to heart disease as men. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. It causes more deaths than all forms of cancer combined.

How are cardiovascular disease symptoms different in women?

Women can go untreated and undiagnosed long before having a heart attack. Why?

Typically men experience the well-known heart attack signs of chest pain, arm pain, and shortness of breath. Women's symptoms of nausea, fatigue, and dizziness are quite different. They are often diagnosed as stress.

In one study of women with heart disease, the top 5 symptoms reported were:

  • unusual fatigue
  • trouble sleeping
  • shortness of breath
  • indigestion and
  • anxiety

Consider the Statistics

Did you know that:

  • A woman going into the hospital for a heart attack has a higher death rate and greater risk of complications.
  • A premenopausal woman who has a heart attack has twice the death rate of a similarly aged man.
  • 64% of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms.
  • More women than men will die within the first year after a heart attack.

Treatment Recommendations for Women

According to the American Heart Association, women should:

  • keep cholesterol levels under control. This means an LDL under 100 mg/dL, an HDL greater than 50mg/dL, and triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL
  • have an active and healthy lifestyle: get plenty of exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a balanced diet
  • not smoke
  • keep blood pressure under 120/80 mm Hg. Blood pressure drugs should be used when blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mm Hg.