Heart disease is the most common cause of death in both sexes. While heart disease gets its due attention in men, it is often neglected or overlooked in the case of women. For the sake of comparison, consider that heart disease is the cause of death for 21.8 % of women in the United States. All forms of cancer combined have a share of 20.7 %. In fact, cardiovascular diseases are the reason for the death of 1 in 4 women globally. This shows how common heart disease in women are.

Heart Disease in Women

Cardiovascular diseases refer to a number of heart and blood vessels related diseases. The umbrella term can refer to diseases like heart stroke, heart attack, and vascular diseases. 

The major causes of heart disease in women are the same as in men, like high cholesterol, obesity, family history, etc. But there are several other reasons that put women at higher risk. The female body, due to its differences from the male body, has some unique challenges when dealing with heart diseases. Two of them are;

Anatomical Difference

Women have thinner walls in their ventricles. This is due to the smaller blood vessels and chambers in a woman’s body. The anatomical difference causes the disease to progress differently in women than in men. Women are also prone to cardiovascular adaptations caused by a sudden change in location or altitude. This is the reason why women faint more often than men. 

Hormonal Difference

Women have a higher level of estrogen, which protects them from heart disease at a young age. Hormones like estrogen affect every aspect of women’s health, including their cardiovascular well-being. Menopause leads to lower levels of estrogen, which further increases the risk of heart disease in women. This is also a major reason why heart disease in women occurs 10 years later than in men. 

Factors that Increase Risk of Women Heart Disease

There are several factors that alleviate the risk of heart disease in women.


Obesity puts women at a higher risk of heart disease. The increase in body weight is often directly and indirectly related to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Even the latest study confirms that abdominal fat or a larger circumference of the waist increases the risk of heart disease significantly.


As discussed above, menopause leads to lower levels of estrogen, which helps prevent heart disease in younger women. This can result in higher cholesterol, plaque in the arteries, and even blood clots. This is why the onset of menopause usually puts women at a higher risk of heart disease.


Although more men than women are smokers, smoking also puts women at a higher risk of developing serious heart disease. The nicotine present in cigarettes tightens the blood vessels. This restricts the natural flow of blood in the blood vessels. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can have a similar impact on your health. So smoking puts both you and your loved ones at a higher risk of heart disease.


Diabetes increases the risk of having a heart attack by twofold. Also, a diabetic is more likely to have a stroke at an earlier age. Diabetes causes hypertension, high LDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides. All of these are bad for your heart and put you at higher risk. Hence, diabetics should keep their sugar levels in check.  


An enlarged heart is a common risk factor for hypertension, or high blood pressure. This is caused by the heart pumping blood with more force and more frequently. The enlarged heart puts you at a higher risk of heart failure, heart attacks, and, in some cases, sudden cardiac death. 

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases like diabetes and Rheumatoid arthritis weaken the immune system of the body and leave you vulnerable to other diseases. Women who suffer from these autoimmune diseases are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases. 

Signs of Heart Attack in Women

Since women develop heart disease at a much later age than men, it can go unnoticed for years. The most common sign of a heart attack in women is chest pain, but more often than not it is dismissed as a minor ailment. The key is to get yourself thoroughly examined by a doctor if the pain persists and if you’re not sure, get a second opinion. Also, some other symptoms of heart disease in women are;

  • Faster heartbeat 
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath 

How can Women Decrease the Risk of Heart Disease?

Quit Smoking

If you are a smoker, quitting is the best thing you can do for your heart, it will significantly decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Additionally, avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. You can do this by not being in closed spaces with smokers.

Keep your other conditions in check

If you have hypertension or diabetes, keep them in check. Talk to your doctor, take your medicines regularly, and ensure you never have very high sugar or blood pressure levels.  

Limit or avoid alcohol

Limit your intake of alcohol. For healthy adults, this will be one drink daily. If possible, avoid alcohol altogether. In the long run, alcohol increases your chances of having serious illnesses like liver failure. So, it is better to go sober.

Manage stress

It’s hard to be completely stress-free in today’s fast-paced world, but try to minimize it. Stress is bad for your heart, as it can cause the arteries to tighten. Try to finish work in such a short time that there’s no last-minute rush and no carrying of work to your home.

Lose weight

Obesity and abdominal fat will increase your chances of getting heart disease. To avoid this, lose weight and maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). 

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet will not only decrease your risk of developing heart disease but also ensure your other health issues are kept in check. You don’t need to do anything fancy, even something as simple as eating at home more often would have a considerable impact on your overall health. Also, try to avoid junk food. Most fast foods are deep-fried in oil, which is extremely detrimental to your heart’s health.  

Exercise Regularly

Try to incorporate any form of exercise into your daily routine. Exercising regularly will not only decrease your chances of developing heart disease but also decrease the chances of developing other diseases. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for an adult. If you don’t have the time to join a gym, take regular brisk walks. Anything above 7,000 steps per day is great. When it comes to exercise, remember to sit less and walk more, and any exercise is better than no exercise.

What are the Early Signs of Heart Attack in Women?

Heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases usually show early signs. These signs can be visible days, weeks, or even months before an actual heart attack in women happens. To minimize the impact of these diseases on your health, you need to be aware of the signs and visit your doctor at the earliest possible date.

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Having trouble sleeping 
  • Breathing problem
  • Uneasiness in the chest area 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Frequent indigestion 

Treatment of Heart Disease in Women

There is no significant difference between the treatment of heart disease in women and men. Although women are less likely to get statins and coronary bypass surgery, this is only due to their having fewer obstructive diseases. But not one treatment option is suitable for every patient, so you can get a second opinion from iLios Health.

Bottom Line

Heart disease in women is the leading cause of death in the world. In recent times, Breast Cancer has been at the centre of the list of serious diseases in women. However, heart disease is an equally if not bigger cause of concern. The key is to know about the disease and assess whether you have a high risk of getting it or not.

Assessing your risk and making changes in lifestyle, diet, and medications accordingly will help you decrease your risk. Even if you are in the low-risk category, quitting habits like smoking and drinking will have a great impact on your overall health. It will improve your health substantially. 

Knowing the early signs of heart attack and visiting a doctor as soon as persistent chest pain occurs are very important. Women can protect themselves from a deadly heart attack if they are equipped with the right knowledge about the signs of heart attack in women.