Heart Disease Can Be Harder on Women. Here’s Why

May 2019

When it comes to heart disease, many people believe it’s men who face the biggest risks. But there are some ways in which women are actually at a greater risk than their male counterparts. Here are four facts about women and cardiovascular disease that may surprise you.

1. Women’s heart attacks are more serious, deadlier and more likely to reoccur. Research from the Texas Heart Institute shows women’s heart attacks generally cause more damage to the heart muscle than men’s. Women are also 50 percent more likely to die in the first year after a heart attack and nearly twice as likely as men to have a second attack within six years.

2. Heart disease in women is more likely to go undiagnosed. Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, can be difficult to detect in women. That’s because coronary artery disease in women often occurs in the small arteries, which are not clearly visible on an angiogram, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

3. Several female-specific conditions increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Cleveland Clinic lists endometriosis, polycystic ovary disease, pregnancy-onset diabetes and high blood pressure as gender-related risk factors for coronary artery disease.

4. Women have a higher risk of “broken heart syndrome,” also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. This condition, recently recognized by the medical community, involves severe, though often short-term, heart muscle failure caused by extreme emotional stress, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Awareness is essential to countering the risks for cardiovascular disease. Following some simple steps can help you maintain a healthier heart: don’t smoke; get the recommended heart-health screenings for your age and risk level by your primary care doctor; exercise regularly; manage your blood pressure, blood sugar and weight and reduce stress.

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