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Gender Matters When it Comes to Heart Health

from Senior LIFE PA

Mar 07, 2019

Do You Know How Women’s Heart health is Different From Men’s?

Though heart disease used to be thought of as a disease affecting men, we now know that heart disease is also a leading cause of death among women. It’s also important to know that gender does matter when it comes to heart health. Here is what you need to know about women’s heart health and how it differs from men’s heart health.

Gender Matters in Women’s Heart Health

While men and women are equally affected by heart disease and their hearts look incredibly similar, there are risk factors that affect women’s heart health more than men.  Research had identified gender differences in overall health that may help in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment by gender. These differences include:


Diabetes has shown to increase the risk of heart disease in woman more than it does in men.  This is likely because women are more likely to have the added risks factors for heart disease that also accompany diabetes. ( These risk factors include obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol. And while women usually develop heart disease about 10 years later than men, diabetes erases that leg-up.

Blood lipids

Women tend to have high total cholesterol following menopause than men have.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is multiple conditions that occur together — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. This condition increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. (). There is also research to suggest that metabolic syndrome is the most important risk factor for heart attacks in women.

Preeclampsia During Pregnancy

There is an elevated risk for women who had preeclampsia and delivered preterm, had low-birthweight babies, or suffered from severe preeclampsia more than once. While still unknown whether the risk is caused by preeclampsia or if the woman was already predisposed, these risks first emerge in the years following a complicated pregnancy.

 On top of these added risk factors, women are also just as affected by the same risk factors of as men. Smoking, high blood pressure, an unhealthy lifestyle, obesity, physical inactivity, a family history of heart disease, and an unhealthy diet are also all risk factors for heart disease.

Women’s Heart Health – Do You Know the Signs of Heart Attack in Women?

For women, the signs of a heart attack may not be the classic signs that we know men experience. For example, women are unlikely to experience the crushing chest pain that men feel. They are more likey to experience fatigue and shortness of breath. Below is a chart from Harvard Medical School showing the top heart attack symptoms in women.

Top heart attack symptoms in women
One month before a heart attackDuring a heart attack
Unusual fatigue (71%)Shortness of breath (58%)
Sleep disturbance (48%)Weakness (55%)
Shortness of breath (42%)Unusual fatigue (43%)
Indigestion (39%)Cold sweat (39%)
Anxiety (36%)Dizziness (39%)
Heart racing (27%)Nausea (36%)
Arms weak/heavy (25%)Arms weak/heavy (35%)
Source: Circulation 2003, Vol. 108, p. 2621.


Listen to Your Heart – How Women Can Keep Their Hearts Healthy

Heart disease in the United States and affects both men and women equally () . It is also one of the most preventable diseases.  For women, the prevention methods look similar to men. It is important that women exercise regularly, don’t smoke,  maintain a healthy weight, and eat a healthy diet.

Heart health as we age also becomes increasingly important. Check out a recent article on heart health and why it’s important for seniors.

While it’s easy to talk about living a heart healthy lifestyle, it can be difficult to do, especially for seniors. With support of family and friends, it can be easier.

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