How Is Women’s Heart Disease Different Than Men’s Heart Disease

Those who read the book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,”  might agree there are significant differences between men and women. When it comes to heart disease, there happens to be more similarities than differences, but what is different is significant. So, just how is women’s heart disease different than men’s heart disease?

What Are The Similarities?Woman taking blood pressure

The risk factors for heart disease are similar for both men and women. They include obesity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, and high amounts of the C-reactive protein or inflammation. As with most risk factors, some can be controlled (like smoking and weight), while others cannot.

The only similar signs or symptoms of heart disease for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort. From there, the symptoms between men and women differ. Knowing the subtle differences for women could be life saving.

The other very important similarity is that heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women according to the CDC.

 Major Differences Between Men and Women’s Heart Disease

Women with heart disease have different symptoms, causes, and outcomes.


The symptoms for women besides chest discomfort include a feeling of indigestion, shortness of breath, and back pain. These more subtle symptoms can be present even without chest pain.

In addition, whereas men experience cold sweats, crushing chest pain, and pain in the left arm, a woman’s symptoms of a heart attack are different.

They include the following:

  • A sense of dread
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Jaw or back pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath


As for the cause of heart disease in women, the main difference between men and women lies in the type of heart disease. Women have ischemic heart disease, which means the coronary arteries narrowed by plaque occur in the smaller blood vessels of the heart rather than the major arteries. This constriction causes lack of blood flow and oxygen. Heart disease in women can be difficult to diagnose because the major arteries look clear.

With men, the larger arteries are affected by plaque. In both cases the narrowing of the arteries leads to blood clots and heart attack.

In addition there are some risk factors that apply only to women.

  • High testosterone levels prior to menopause
  • Increased hypertension during menopause
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stress and depression

Not being aware of the above risk factors contributes and actually becomes a risk factor itself.


Lastly, women’s outcomes are less positive than men after a heart attack. More women die within the first year, develop heart failure, are more likely to die after a bypass surgery, and have higher rates of depression and disability after a heart attack.

It is believed this is due to women not being aware of symptoms of heart disease and therefore, not getting timely treatment. Share this article with the women in your life.

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Contact New Jersey Cardiology Associates if you experience any of the symptoms of heart disease in women. Our cardiologists are expertly trained in diagnosing and treating heart disease and will take the time to fully evaluate your symptoms. Request an appointment online today!

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