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A Woman's Heart - Unique Features of Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women

While risk factors1 for cardiovascular disease are similar in women and men, there are some risks that are higher or have a greater prevalence in women than men. In addition, there are some unique risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women.

 

Risk factors that are similar in women and men include:

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Advancing age
  • Family history
  • Ethnicity

Modifiable risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • High total cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • Combined hyperlipidaemia
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Stress

Risk factors that are higher or have a greater prevalence in women versus men include:

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Advancing age
  • Family history
  • Ethnicity

Modifiable risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • High total cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol

 

Unique risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women include:

  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Hormone-replacement therapy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

 

Outcomes for Women after a Heart Attack
Heart attacks occur in both women and men, but a women’s risk for having a heart attack increases significantly after menopause. Unfortunately, a woman’s likelihood of survival after a heart attack is lower than that of a man. Data from the American Heart Association indicate that more women than men will:

  • Die within the first year after suffering a heart attack
  • Suffer another heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease within the first 5 years after a heart attack
  • Develop heart failure within 5 years of surviving a heart attack
  • Suffer from stroke within the first 5 years after a heart attack2


In addition to these data, younger women who have a heart attack have higher mortality than men of the same age, even though they generally suffer from less-severe coronary narrowing, smaller heart attacks, and have more-preserved cardiac function.3 Young or middle-aged women exhibit higher rates of adverse outcomes, complications, and disability after heart attack or ACS compared with men.3
 

The American Heart Association also states that women are not as likely to receive aggressive diagnosis and treatment for cardiovascular disease in comparison to men. Women also receive fewer interventional treatments, with and without the placement of stents, than men (only 34% for women).4
 

References
1. Website [Internet]. [cited 2012 November 27] Available from: http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/en/cvd_atlas_12_women.pdf
2. Website [Internet]. [cited 2012 November 14] Available from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/123/4/e18;accessed
3. Website [Internet]. [cited 2012 November 14] Available from: http://www.cadiresearch.org/?page_id=867
4. FACT SHEET: Cardiovascular Disease: Women’s No. 1 Health Threat. AHA/HPFS/1/2012; American Heart Association.

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