How Gender Affects Your Heart

When it comes to heart health, women and men have different needs. Research has shown that women’s hearts have a smaller size and pumping ability. Women’s arteries branch out differently throughout the body. Plaque builds up differently in women’s arteries, making it harder to detect. And scientists are still exploring the role that hormones play in women’s cardiovascular health. We also know that:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
  • Women are more likely than men to die within a year after a heart attack.
  • Heart attack symptoms can be vague in women, making them less likely to get rapid emergency care.

The good news is that most heart attacks can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. But the only person who can truly care for your heart is you. At the Memorial Health Heart & Vascular Institute, we encourage women to take charge of their heart health. Make an action plan to keep your heart strong throughout all stages of your life. Your health matters, and it’s up to you to make it a priority.

Why It’s Different for Women

  • The majority of women between ages 40 and 60 have at least one risk factor for heart disease and do not know it. The groundwork for heart disease can begin in your 20s, or even younger. For years, many women thought that hormone therapy would protect them from heart problems after menopause, but now we know that is not true.
  • The warning signs of a heart attack in women can be very subtle or unrecognizable.
  • African-American women and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are at an increased risk for a cluster of heart-disease risk factors known as metabolic syndrome.

Take Charge

It's up to you to improve your heart health, and you can start right now. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle will benefit more than just your heart. You may also notice improved mood, healthier skin, decreased weight, and higher energy levels. When your heart feels good, the rest of your body feels better too. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce stress
  • Monitor your blood pressure
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Eat heart-healthy food
  • Exercise