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Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute 30 Aug 2020

The Female Heart: 10 Interesting Facts

Matters of the heart are important to both women and men

Heart disease isn’t just a concern for men, it’s a critical health issue for women, too. Here are some surprising facts relating to women and their hearts.

    1. Globally, coronary heart disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death among women.
    2. A woman’s heart is typically smaller and weighs less than a man’s - it also pumps around 10% less blood per heartbeat.
    3. At 78-82 beats per minute, the average female heart rate is faster than the male average of 70-72 beats.
    4. Stress affects the male and female heart differently. A stressful situation causes a woman’s pulse rate to rise and her heart to pump more blood, whereas a man's blood pressure increases due to constriction of the arteries in his heart.
    5. Women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men - the average age for heart attacks in women is 70, whilst it’s 66 in men.
    6. The risk of heart disease increases after menopause, this may be due to the effect of decreasing natural estrogen levels.
    7. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary disease and pregnancy-related diabetes or complications, like preeclampsia, increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
    8. Like men, women can experience classic symptoms such as chest pain when experiencing a heart attack however, other symptoms differ in women and can be more subtle, these can include:
      • New or dramatic fatigue
      • Shortness of breath or sweating
      • Pain in the neck, back, stomach or jaw
      • Sharp or burning chest pain that comes and goes

These symptoms may begin 3-4 weeks before an attack.

  1. Coronary artery disease can be more difficult to diagnose in women as it often affects the smaller arteries. An angiogram test reveals blockages and narrowing of the heart’s arteries – however, it does not always show smaller vessels clearly. If a woman’s symptoms persist after an ‘all-clear’ angiogram result, it’s important to see a cardiologist who specializes in heart disease in women.
  2. Women are more likely than men to develop broken heart syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy - a temporary heart condition that can be caused by stressful events.

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