Does heart disease differ between men and women?

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Dr. Theodore D. Richards, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Women are more likely to have subtle heart attack symptoms than men. While chest pain and shortness of breath can apply to both men and women, women are much more likely to demonstrate unusual symptoms like indigestion, abdominal pain, back pain, weakness, vomiting and in some cases, flu-like symptoms.

Dr. Tseday Sirak, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Tseday Sirak, MD, from StoneSprings Hospital Center, says that women usually experience atypical symptoms of heart disease, while men will feel classic chest pain. Learn more in this video.

Dr. Amin M. Manuchehry, MD
Interventional Cardiologist

Heart disease affects women and men differently, particularly the symptoms and time of onset. Watch Amin Manuchehry, MD, of Good Samaritan Hospital, explain the differences.

Dr. John F. Canales, MD
Interventional Cardiologist

Some believe heart disease only affects men, but it's actually the number one killer in women, says John Calanes, MD, with Northeast Methodist Hospital. In this video, he discusses the importance of educating the community on heart disease.

Dr. Rachel P. Sosland, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Heart disease differs between men and women. Often heart disease can present later in women than in men, but is still the major cause of death in women. The risk of heart disease in women is often underestimated due to the misperception that females are protected against heart disease. The under-recognition of heart disease and differences in clinical presentation in women lead to less aggressive treatment strategies and a lower representation of women in clinical trials. Women are not always self-aware of their risk and don’t always identify their risk factors which if better treated would lead to better prevention of cardiovascular events.

Dr. Navid Kazemi, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Watch as Navid Kazemi, MD, a cardiologist at MountainView Hospital, explains how heart disease risks differ between the genders—and how lifestyle trends are radically changing those risks. 

Dr. Jorge A. Alvarez, MD
Interventional Cardiologist

The cause of heart disease between men and women is the same, but women can have their own unique symptoms. In this video Jorge Alvarez, MD, interventional cardiologist at Methodist Hospital, explains.

Saint Agnes Medical Center
Administration Specialist

Heart disease can take different forms in men and women. Diastolic heart failure (a decline in the performance of one or both ventricles, which pump blood) is more common to women. This is different in men, where the leading cause of heart disease is clogged arteries. Symptoms of cardiac problems also can be different for each gender. Men tend to present with the classic symptoms of chest pain or some kind of central chest discomfort. Women can also experience chest pain but might just have extreme weakness or fatigue, along with nausea and shortness of breath.

There is also a gender split in what triggers a heart attack. For men, that trigger is predominantly physical activity, exercise. In women, it’s also emotional provocation—anger or fear. And this creates another challenge for women: If the symptoms are activity-triggered, when the activity stops, the demand on the heart stops, and symptoms go away. When it is emotionally triggered, you can’t turn off that stimulus as promptly, so the symptoms tend to persist longer. Since physical activity is under control and emotions aren’t, this explains why women tend to have more severe symptoms and to report more impairment to quality of life with heart disease.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Dr. Rozy Dunham, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Heart disease warning signs for women aren't the same as in men. Women are not at increased risk for heart disease compared to men, but they are at increased risk for worse outcomes. Women tend to die or have a higher mortality after their event than men do, so, although the prevalence of heart disease and the risk for heart disease is the same amongst men and women, more women tend to have worse outcomes from their heart attack than do men.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

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

Heart disease itself is a bit difficult to understand—the answer to this question is yes and no. The process that causes heart disease is the same in men and women. This cause is atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.

However, there is a difference in men and women. Most men with heart attacks have one single blockage, which is easier to fix. Women are different because, by the time they come into the doctor’s office to get tested for heart disease and have symptoms, they are more likely to have many areas of blockage. When women come in to get tested for heart disease, it has usually progressed.

It’s hard to distinguish what causes these different symptoms. There are many factors—including weight gain and old age—that can cause the fatigue that’s often present with heart disease, so it’s hard to detect in women. The test results tend to be less accurate in women, especially the common stress test. Women tend to ignore symptoms more and live with a higher tolerance for symptoms, making it harder to identify heart disease since tests aren’t as accurate.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

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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.