Some heart disease risk factors and symptoms in women can differ from those in men. Here are the risk factors and symptoms of heart disease in women that you should know. Heart disease is no longer a man’s disease alone - it is the leading cause of death in women globally, more than all the cancers combined yet in women, it is still under recognized and under treated often leading to suboptimal care and poor outcomes, majority of which are preventable. Heart disease may be considered by some to be more of a problem for men however, it's the common cause of death for both women and men and some heart disease risk factors and symptoms in women can differ from those in men.
Most common is a heart attack due to blockage which had formed inside a major coronary artery (coronary artery disease). However, women often have chest pain with no evidence of blockage in major coronary arteries - Ischemia with No Obstructive Coronary Artery disease (INOCA) due to disease in smaller blood vessels(microvascular disease). Women are also prone to spontaneous dissections or spasm in coronary arteries and stress induced weakness of the heart (stress cardiomyopathy). Women, especially those with rheumatological diseases can have involvement of their heart valves.
What are the risk factors?
Women at mid-life near or after menopause are at the highest risk. The hormone estrogen raises the level of HDL (good) cholesterol and helps to keep the arteries flexible. After menopause, drop in estrogen levels occur leading to higher risk of heart disease. Traditional risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels especially bad cholesterol and smoking are the most important risk factors for heart disease in both men and women.
Women with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than men with diabetes. 3-fold risk of fatal coronary artery disease is seen in them as compared to non-diabetic women. Emotional stress and depression affect women’s hearts adversely. Also, this may make it more difficult to follow a healthy lifestyle and adhere to the recommended treatments. Additional risk factors include family history of heart disease, obesity and physical inactivity, rheumatological diseases, pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes in pregnancy.