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Why is heart disease harder to treat in women?

Dr. Michael W. Gen, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Several factors make heart disease harder to treat in women. A lack of detectability and accuracy in testing leads to a lack of aggressive treatment; treatment itself is harder for women because they don’t tolerate medication as well as men; and they have lower blood pressures than men. We’re limited in our approaches to treating women.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Part of the reason heart disease is harder to treat in women is because of the milder or less overt symptoms they experience. Symptoms in women often don’t seem like heart attack symptoms so they wait longer to go to the emergency room and longer to see a doctor. Moreover, the fact that plaque tends to distribute more evenly in women than in men means that women’s angiographies are often misinterpreted as normal.

Heart disease is harder to treat in women because when women have symptoms they tend to wait and don't immediately call 911. Women more than men tend to have atypical or subtle signs of heart attack, such as extreme fatigue, cold sweats, or epigastric or stomach pain.

In women the pain of a heart attack can display slightly differently. It may not be as intense. It could be in one or the other arm, or up into the neck or jaw.

Women are notorious care providers. Women care for everyone else and tend to put their signs and symptoms to the side and say, "I can't go in and deal with this now. I've got to get the kids taken care of."

If time is heart muscle, every second counts. If a woman feels symptoms that she has never had before, she should call 911 and get an ambulance.  If she gets the care that she needs she can survive a heart attack without as much heart damage.

Dr. Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Oftentimes when women have heart disease, they are unaware because their symptoms are less clear than in men, making it harder to diagnose and treat. Watch as I explain how heart disease symptoms are subtler in women.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.