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Women and heart disease
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Women and heart disease

Information and resources for healthcare professionals.

Key takeaways

  • Heart disease in Australian women is currently under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-researched.

  • Present efforts are focused on improving diagnosis, treatment and care so that disparities in heart outcomes for women are minimised.
  • Heart disease can occur at any life stage, but the risk increases significantly around menopause.
  • Healthcare professionals should recognise sex-specific risk factors that can increase a woman's risk of cardiovascular disease, including pregnancy complications.
  • We have developed a range of resources to use with your patients.

Coronary heart disease is a significant issue for Australian women. Approximately 20 women die each day of coronary heart disease, killing almost three times as many Australian women as breast cancer.1 Yet the general perception of heart disease is that it is a male disease.  

Research shows that women are much less likely to undergo treatment for heart attack or angina in hospital compared to men.2 Women experiencing heart attacks have significant delays in presenting to a hospital for treatment and receiving life-saving procedures, with a four-fold delay in door to balloon time compared to men.3 Studies consistently show that women often have poorer outcomes than men following diagnosis.2  

Fortunately, there is growing recognition of the role sex and gender play in the development of cardiovascular disease, particularly regarding risk factors, pathophysiology, management and outcomes.4-6  

This has led to a universal call for:

  • more research into the sex-specific features of cardiovascular disease
  • greater consideration of sex as a determinant in risk assessment and treatment guidelines
  • better education for healthcare professionals in relation to sex and gender differences
  • access to more calibrated decision-making tools. 

The Heart Foundation is committed to improving heart health outcomes for women.  We continue to implement a range of actions to raise awareness, develop healthcare professional information and resources and invest in research to address current gaps in knowledge about heart disease in women.  

Areas of current research include the vascular complications associated with pregnancy, sudden coronary artery dissection (SCAD) and the issues associated with microvascular disease.

Vascular complications in pregnancy

Cardiovascular disease risk associated with pregnancy has until recent times been poorly acknowledged, researched and understood. Find out how pregnancy complications can contribute to cardiovascular risk in women.

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)

SCAD mostly affects women with few traditional risk factors. Being aware of the warning signs of a heart attack and knowing how to respond is important advice for all women. Clinical information on SCAD and resources for your patients can be found, here.

Risk factors and warning signs of a heart attack in women

The risk of cardiovascular disease in women changes throughout life’s course. It is important for the public and healthcare professionals to be aware of the risk factors and heart attack warning signs affecting women. Read more, here

Women in cardiology networks

Cardiology is an area of medicine with low female representation, particularly in the subspecialties of interventional cardiology and electrophysiology. 

As a response, several women cardiology groups have formed around the world to provide mentorship, visible role models and foster opportunities for research collaboration. 

In Australia there are two notable groups:

  1. The NSW Hearts and Heels Female Cardiology Roundtable
  2. The Victorian Women in Cardiology Group 
The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) has also established the Women in Cardiology Working Group. Visit the CSANZ website for more information.

Information for patients

We have a range of useful resources to help you educate and support your patients in managing their cardiovascular disease risk or heart condition.

Our information and resources include:

Reports and statements on women and heart disease

The following resources and links to webinars might be of personal or professional interest:  

Australian reports and editorials

 International reports and statements

Webinars

  • Heart health: links to cancer treatment – This webinar discusses the link between cancer treatments and the long-term impacts on heart health.
  • Women in Cardiology ESC Congress 2020 - The Heart Foundation, along with the NSW Hearts and Heels Cardiology Roundtable and the Victorian Women in Cardiology group held a digital networking event to replace real time networking at the 2020 European Society of Cardiology Congress meeting in Amsterdam.

Last reviewed: 6/10/2021

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