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Gender Differences in Coronary Heart Disease

July 23, 2020

Studies show that gender differences in coronary heart disease can be significant. One startling difference is that cardiovascular disease develops 7 to 10 years later in women than in men, but is still the No. 1 killer of both sexes. Women are also more likely to have coexisting chronic conditions, but the reasons for these differences are not well understood.

So, let’s look at some of the gender differences in coronary heart disease and why it is important to understand them.

Heart Disease Affects Men and Women Differently

A report from the American Heart Association in the journal “Circulation,” updated the heart disease and stroke statistics among men and women.

But before that study came out, the results of another study published in Circulation show that for both women and men, coronary heart disease is the largest contributor to cardiovascular disease morbidity and death. That same study found that the number of women living with and dying of cardiovascular disease and stroke exceeds those of men, as does the number of hospital discharges for heart failure and stroke. And it shows that women account for more than 60% of stroke deaths in the United States. In contrast, more men are living with and dying of coronary heart disease than women.

Many of those statistics remain the same today. Here’s a chart from that study that breaks it all down.

 

Gender Differences in Coronary Heart Disease

 

Researchers also find significant differences between men and women in survival following a heart attack. For example, 42% of women who have heart attacks die within a year compared with 24% of men.

The most recent numbers also point out that in 2017, there were 3,244 heart transplantations in the United States, the most ever. The average annual direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease and stroke in the United States was an estimated $351.2 billion from 2014 to 2015. And the estimated direct costs of CVD and stroke increased from $103.5 billion in 1996 to 1997 to $213.8 billion from 2014 to 2015.

Additional Gender Differences

Research also has shown that women may not be diagnosed or treated as aggressively as men, and their symptoms may be very different from those of men who are having a heart attack.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) supports a vigorous women's health research program, including research focused on CVD and other chronic illnesses. AHRQ-supported projects are addressing women's access to quality healthcare services, accurate diagnoses, appropriate referrals for procedures, and optimal use of proven therapies.

The following are summaries of program briefs from research done between 2005-2008.

  • Variables in the care of lipid control and diabetes management may explain some of the male-female differences in cardiovascular disease outcomes.
  • Commercial health plans show disparities between women and men in cardiovascular care. These disparities were even greater among Medicare managed care plans.
  • Among heart disease patients, women are less likely than men to use low-dose aspirin therapy.
  • Women with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or congestive heart failure (CHF) did not receive the same care as men.
  • Immunosuppression related to transfusion may explain women's increased risk of dying after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.
  • Women with atherosclerosis and high cholesterol receive less intense cholesterol management than men.
  • Management of chest pain differs by sex and race. More men than women received definitive diagnoses of angina, while more women than men were diagnosed with vague chest pain. Also, women and minorities received fewer cardiovascular medications.

Knowing these facts can help you manage your health. You can ask your doctor questions about the gender differences in coronary heart disease to find out which ones might affect you.

Get Your Heart Tested

Depending on your age, it may be time to start screening for heart disease. Today’s technology allows us to predict your risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.

These tests will help you stay ahead of possible heart health risks. Take a minute to download our guide “Cardiology Tests That Are Keeping Hearts Healthy.”

In the past, cardiologists did not have access to diagnostic tests that can detect arterial problems accurately. Even though such tests are available today, not many people are getting their arteries examined. By undergoing the proper noninvasive tests, you can know sooner if your arteries are in good condition, and get help to treat any arterial condition that exists. This will decrease your risk for sudden heart attacks, provided that you are not already suffering from some form of heart disease.

How to tell if you'll have a heart attack