Heart Disease Risk Factors and Warning Signs are Different for Men and Women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States

Although the U.S Centers for Disease Control have indicated that nearly the same number of men and women die from heart attacks and other heart disease each year, most Americans perceive heart problems as a man’s disease. A recent American Heart Association survey revealed that one-third of women are unaware of the symptoms and their risk of heart disease as well as treatment for it. Detecting early warning signs of heart disease is essential to prevent problems from becoming serious; even more alarming is the fact that heart disease usually attacks women later in life, leaving their bodies less able to recover physically and damaging their health further.


Heart Disease is different for men and women, learn how today!

  • Pressure, tightness, and squeezing in the chest are common indicators for heart attacks in men. Unfortunately, women can have a heart attack without any of these symptoms; shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting and back or jaw pain are more common heart attack indicators for women. The Journal of the American Medical Association authors wrote a recent article stating that heart attack victims that do not have the typical symptoms, pressure, tightness and chest pain, tend to wait longer before going to the hospital, are treated less aggressively and have twice the mortality rate. The same study also discovered that younger women have a higher rate of in-hospital death following a heart attack compared to men with in the same age group; this is most likely attributed to the lack of pain symptoms and a delay in seeking medical help.
  • Large amounts of plaque buildup and hardening of the arteries puts women at a significantly higher risk for a heart attack when compared to men with the same amount of plaque buildup. A Coronary Computed Tomography Angiogram is a great tool to identify the levels of plaque buildup and is now even more useful when determining your risk level for heart attacks based on gender.
  • Metabolic syndrome will raise anyone’s risk for heart disease and stroke but it is especially worrisome for women. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a combination of the following factors; a large waist, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Researchers have attributed the higher risk of heart attack of women with Metabolic syndrome to their body’s inability to handle additional weight and internal stressors as well as men. Pre- and Post-Menopausal women need to be especially careful when hormone changes lead to weight gain. Metabolic syndrome can also lead to type 2 diabetes creating an additional host of health problems.
  •  A recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found a link between depression and heart problem. Women with a history of depression have three times greater risk for heart disease than men. This may be due to the side effects of depression that can lead a person to pick up unhealthy habits, such as; skipping the gym, eating poorly and smoking. The American Heart Association recommends depression screening as part of a heart disease prevention evaluation in women.
  •  A recent study published in the Lancet founds that cigarette smoking is 25% more likely to lead to heart disease in women than in men. Researchers have been unable to determine if the increased risk is a biological or behaviorally related but believe that women’s bodies may absorb more carcinogens from smoking the same number of cigarettes as men. The CDC Statistics from 2008 counted 21.1 million female Americans are smokers and this number continues to grow.
  •  Approaching menopause increases a woman’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As women age they are more likely to develop other conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis that can strain the heart. A link between low estrogen levels and heart disease in women was first discovered in 1970; a recent 2011 study showed how estrogen was able to protect the heart by preventing artery blockages by preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessels. The combination of low estrogen levels for premenopausal and menopausal women, combined with conditions such as diabetes and life style choices such as smoking puts younger women at risk for heart disease as their estrogen levels begin to decrease.
  •  The U.S Preventative Services Task Force recommends taking aspirin for men to reduce the risk of first heart attacks; unfortunately this remedy does not do the same for women. Aspirin does reduce the risk for first strokes in women, but a biological difference between genders does not offer the same benefits for women and heart disease.
  •  The American Heart Association has outlined a number of diseases and conditions that increase a women’s risk of heart disease; lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia. Women who have had trouble pregnancies should continue to consult with their doctor about possible complications later in life; pregnancy conditions like preeclampsia can double a woman’s risk of stroke, heart disease, and dangerous clotting in veins during the five to 15 years after pregnancy.

Education and awareness is one of the most important tools to preventing and seeking treatment for heart disease. The symptoms are not the same for men and women and possible indicators should be discussed with your doctor, especially if lifestyle choices are putting you at a greater risk.