Women’s Risks of Heart Attacks Differ from Those of Men

A research study published by JAMA in May 2022 revealed that women 55 years of age and under have different chief risk factors for heart attacks than their male counterparts. In this article, we present an overview of these risk factors and other vital information regarding heart attacks and women.

Comparison of Heart Attack Risk Factors Between Women and Men

According to the JAMA study, seven risk factors collectively accounted for most of the heart attack risk in both women and men. Having said that, there are differences in the actual risk levels of these factors between women and men.

The seven primary risk factors of heart attack among people of both genders are:

  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Current smoking
  • Family history of heart attack
  • Low household income
  • High cholesterol

Among men, the leading risk factors for heart attack are:

  • Current smoking
  • Family history of heart attack

Among women, the leading risk factors for heart attack are:

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Low household income

Facts and Stats: Women at Risk for Heart Disease

71 percent of women experience early warning signs of heart attack with sudden onset of extreme weakness that feels like the flu. Women often experience no chest pain at all. Medical professionals are challenged to respond to women’s milder symptoms. They do not immediately diagnose a heart attack.

Nearly two-thirds of the deaths from heart attacks in women occur among those with no history of chest pain.

Smoking, diabetes, and abnormal blood lipids erase a woman’s estrogen protection.

Women who smoke risk having a heart attack 19 years earlier than is the case with non-smoking women.

Women with hypertension experience a risk of developing coronary heart disease 3.5 times that of females with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is more common in women taking oral contraceptives. This is mainly the case with women who have obesity.

Women with diabetes have more than double the risk of heart attack than non-diabetic women. Diabetes doubles the risk of a second heart attack in women but not men. Diabetes affects many more women than men after the age of 45.

23 percent of white women, 38 percent of black women, and 36 percent of Mexican American women are classified as obese. Obesity increases the risk of premature death due to cardiovascular problems like hypertension, stroke, and coronary artery disease.

The age-adjusted rate of heart disease for African American women is 72 percent higher than for white women. African American women ages 55-64 are twice as likely as white women to have a heart attack and 35% more likely to suffer coronary artery disease.

Prevalence of Heart Disease Among Women

Heart disease is a major health issue for women generally in this day and age. In this regard, there is important data for you to consider regarding the prevalence of heart disease among women.

8.6 million women worldwide die from heart disease each year. This accounts for one-third of all deaths among women each year. Three million women die from stroke annually. Stroke accounts for more deaths among women than men (11 percent versus just over 8 percent).

8 million women in the United States presently are living with heart disease. 35,000 of these women are under the age of 65. Four million women suffer from angina.

435,000 American women have heart attacks annually. 83,000 of these women are under the age of 65. 35,000 are under the age of 55. The average woman who has a heart attack is just over 70 years.

42 percent of women who have heart attacks die within one year. This compares to 24 percent of men who suffer heart attacks and die within a year. Under the age of 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to prove fatal.

267,000 women in the United States die annually from heart attacks. Heart attacks kill six times as many women as breast cancer. Another 31,837 women die each year of congestive heart failure. This represents nearly 63 percent of all heart failure deaths.

Heart Disease: Women Compared and Contrasted to Men

Men’s plaque distributes in clumps, whereas women’s distributes more evenly throughout artery walls. This results in women’s angiographic studies being misinterpreted as normal when they are not.

Women wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack. In addition, doctors are slower to recognize the presence of heart attacks in women. This is because characteristics typically associated with heart attacks in men, patterns of chest pain, and EKG changes are less frequently present in women who are having heart attacks.

After a heart attack, women are less likely than men to receive beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and aspirin. These are therapies known to improve survival. This contributes to a higher rate of complications after heart attacks in women.

38 percent of women and 25 percent of men will die within one year of a first recognized heart attack. Women are twice as likely as men to die within the first few weeks after suffering a heart attack. 46 percent of women and 22 percent of men that are heart attack survivors will be disabled with heart failure within six years.

Women are two to three times as likely to die after heart bypass surgery. Younger women between the ages of 40 through 59 are up to four times more likely to die from heart bypass surgery than men of the same age.

Studies show that women who are eligible candidates to receive life-saving clot-buster drugs are far less likely than men to receive them. Since 1984, more women than men have died yearly from heart disease. The gap between men’s and women’s survival continues to widen at this point.

Women receive fewer heart disease procedures than men. With that said, more is not necessarily better in this setting. In fact, medical research has to establish the best course of treatment for a woman with heart disease has yet to be found.

Women’s hearts respond better than men’s to healthy lifestyle changes. Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies. In the final analysis, women must take the risk of heart disease seriously. It is also imperative that physicians and other health care providers focus attention on the needs of women when it comes to heart health and the risk of heart disease.