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Women and heart disease

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Women and heart disease

Information on women and heart disease for consumers.

Key takeaways

2 min read

  • Cardiovascular disease (an umbrella term that includes heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease) is the leading cause of death for women globally.

  • Almost every hour of every day an Australian woman dies of heart disease.

  • Heart disease in women can occur at any age but the risk changes throughout life’s course.

  • Women are less likely to attend cardiac rehabilitation, less likely to take their medicine regularly, and are less likely to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

  • For women aged 45 and over (or 30 and over for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women), speak to your GP about your risk of heart attack and stroke and have a Heart Health Check.

Almost every hour of every day an Australian woman dies of coronary heart disease. On average that equates to 20 women a day.

Research shows that women are much less likely to undergo treatment for heart attack or angina (chest pain) in hospital compared to men.

For women, the risk of cardiovascular disease changes throughout life’s course. It’s important to be aware of the risk factors that specifically affect women, and what you can do to look after your heart health2.

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)

  • SCAD is an example of a condition that occurs more frequently in women.

  • It occurs when a split suddenly develops between the inner layers of a coronary artery. Blood flows into this space and reduces the amount of blood flowing through the artery. This means less blood and oxygen reach the heart.

  • The symptoms of SCAD are similar to those of a heart attack or angina (chest pain). Most people who have SCAD have few or no known risk factors.

  • Recognising the warning signs of a heart attack, and getting treatment as quickly as possible, is important for women of all ages.

For more information on SCAD see the following videos:  

Pregnancy complications

Pregnancy is often referred to as the ‘ultimate stress test’ for the body. Some of the complications of pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. Find out how pregnancy complications can contribute to cardiovascular risk in women.  

Risk factors and warning signs

Know the full range of risk factors and warning signs of a heart attack in women.

If you are aged 45 and over (or 30 and over for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women) speak to your GP about your risk of heart attack and stroke and have a Heart Health Check.

Recovery after a heart attack or angina

Women of any age may be diagnosed with a heart condition. What happens next can be dependent on the type of heart condition.

Many people who have been diagnosed with a heart condition go on to live long, full lives. However, it's important to make lifestyle changes to manage your heart health over the longer term.  

If you have been discharged from hospital after a diagnosis or a procedure, the steps to recovery are likely to be:   

Support group for younger people who are living with a heart condition

Supporting Young Hearts

Our Supporting Young Hearts program provides opportunities for young people to connect with each other, share stories and learn about how to manage their heart condition.

  1. Venditti V, Bleve E, Morano S, Filardi T. Gender-Related Factors in Medication Adherence for Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health. Metabolites. Oct 17 2023;13(10)doi:10.3390/metabo13101087
  2. Statistics ABo. Causes of Death, Australia. Accessed 15th Feburary, 2024.
  3. Khan E, Brieger D, Amerena J, Atherton JJ, Chew DP, Farshid A, et al. Differences in management and outcomes for men and women with ST-elevation myocardial infarction. Medical Journal of Australia. 2018;209(3):118-23.
  4. Garcia M, Mulvagh Sharon L, Bairey Merz CN, Buring Julie E, Manson JoAnn E. Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Circulation Research. 2016;118(8):1273-93.10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.307547.
  5. Lee SK, Khambhati J, Varghese T, Stahl EP, Kumar S, Sandesara PB, et al. Comprehensive primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. Clinical cardiology. 2017;40(10):832-8.10.1002/clc.22767
  6. D'Ovidio C, Sablone S, Carnevale A. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: case report and literature review. Journal of forensic sciences. 2015;60(3):801-6.10.1111/1556-4029.12722.
  7. Regitz-Zagrosek V, Roos-Hesselink JW, Bauersachs J, Blomstrom-Lundqvist C, Cifkova R, De Bonis M, et al. 2018 ESC Guidelines for the management of cardiovascular diseases during pregnancy. Kardiologia Polska (Polish Heart Journal). 2019;77(3):245-326

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Last updated13 March 2024