Heart attack & coronary artery disease in women

  • Gayatri
  • Tuesday | 25th September, 2018

It is generally believed and it is to a great extent true that women suffer fewer heart attacks as compared to men. Many men believe that women are heartless but it is not so! The incidence of coronary artery disease (the disease which leads to heart attack) is less in women as compared to men but is definitely on the grow and special attention should be paid to prevent coronary artery disease in women.

Women have a natural protection of hormones till menopause, therefore, the percentage of heart attacks in women before menopause is almost half of what men suffer. However, after menopause, this protection of hormones is removed and there are equal number of heart attacks in men and women after the age of 50.

Paradoxically or peculiarly breast cancers and uterine cancers are discussed more women but the number of women dying by heart disease is atleast 100 times more as compared to breast cancers; therefore awareness related to heart attacks in women is extremely essential.


These reasons are technically called risk factors and these risk factors are exponential. (hey don’t add to each other but increase the risk exponentially.) Diabetes is one of the major risk factors and women can get diabetes in pregnancy. Same is true of hypertension. Some women can start hypertension in pregnancy and then continue with it for the rest of their life. Women who smoke have a higher chance of developing heart attacks than men who smoke. Lack of exercise, obesity, mental stress, over-ambitious (Type A personality) are also known as risk factors as they are known in men.

Women who consume oral contraceptive pills for a long time have a certain tendency to develop clots and they can suffer from heart attacks and clots in other areas of the body like the brain. Women generally lead a more stressful life and diseases related to chronic stress like high blood pressure, heart attacks, appear to be on the growth in women in modern day life where more women have taken up to work. Job pressures and home pressures together have doubled the stress in women and have led to increase in the number of heart attacks in women.

Vitamin B12 deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency are also known as risk factors. A sister having suffered a heart attack makes a big risk factor in women and if one sister suffers a heart attack the other should be on guard and start protecting and investigating themselves. Women who are short, obese, diabetic and with family history of sister having suffered generally should be on high alert to get checked for heart attacks.


The clear cut symptoms of chest pain, in the center, coming on exertion relieved by rest and sweating need not be seen in women. Women have “atypical” symptoms. They could be in the form of just exhaustion. It could be just profuse perspiration, it could be in the form of breathlessness or restlessness at the end of the day and it should be recognized or investigated for heart related ailments. In women, many symptoms look like a heart attack but may not be the case and these are called “false alarms”.

Many women get investigated for these false chest pains and left arm pains and ECG changes but they don’t turn out to be having coronary artery disease.


When a women suffers heart attack, her average time of reaching the hospital is longer as compared to a man. This is related to centuries of social upbringing and social systems. Women tend to be more tolerant and would carry on with the pain or discomfort longer than a man does. This means they present to the hospital late and lead to more complications as compared to men. The disease tends to be more severe and they need to require longer stay in the ICUs and suffer from major complications of a heart attack like heart failure, etc.


The treatment for heart attack in women however does not differ from that in men. Reaching the hospital as early as possible, getting treated with blood thinners and later on getting treated with angioplasty and bypass surgery is the same in women as compared to men. The response given by women to treatment is the same as compared to men. They however have slightly different coronary arteries. Their coronary arteries tend to be thinner, smaller and more curvaceous (tortuous) as compared to men.


Women tend to rehabilitate much better than me because of their inherited discipline. They follow rules laid by the doctors much better. Their ability to take medicines regularly is much better. Because the rules prescribed in the form of diet, exercise and medicines are followed well, the rehabilitation programmes meant for women always get more rewarding results than men.

Being aware of the increase in the incidence of heart attacks in women, simple methods like improvement in lifestyle, diet, exercise, regular checking of parameters, regular follow up with dotors is required to prevent disease, to identify the disease early and to lead a better overall healthy lifestyle. 

Source: Dr. Amit Bhushan Sharma

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