Heart Attacks in Women

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.

Heart attacks and their aftermath tend to be more deadly in women. About one-quarter more women than men die within a year of having a heart attack. This may happen because women are generally older than men when they suffer heart attacks. Also, women don't respond as well as men to the treatments usually prescribed during or after a heart attack.

For many women, a heart attack may feel like a strange discomfort in the back or some other easily ignored sign, instead of crushing chest pain.

When women do go to the hospital, doctors may miss the diagnosis of heart attack because the symptoms are vague. Without a definite diagnosis, a woman may be sent home thinking that her symptoms don't mean anything serious.

Studies confirm that heart disease may differ in women in ways that doctors may not realize. Heart disease, in many women doesn't occur from obvious blockages in arteries as it does in men.

Instead, for women, plaque spreads evenly along the artery wall or in the smaller arteries—areas hidden from an angiogram, the standard imaging test that measures blood flow in the big arteries.

Heart Attack Statistics

It is a myth that heart disease is a man's disease. In fact, cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer of women. These diseases currently claim the lives of more than a half a million females every year - more than the next 16 causes of death combined.

In 64 percent of women who died suddenly from cardiovascular disease, there were no previous symptoms of the disease.

Consider the following statistics about cardiovascular disease in women from the American Heart Association: 

  • One out of every five women has some form of cardiovascular disease.
  • In the United States, cardiovascular diseases claim the lives of nearly 503,000 females annually, while all forms of cancer combine to kill about 258,000 females.
  • Coronary heart disease is the single largest cause of death for females in the United States.
  • About 18,900 females under age 65 die of coronary heart disease each year; about 35 percent of them are under age 55.
  • Forty-two percent of women who have heart attacks die within a year, compared with 24 percent of men. Because women have heart attacks at older ages, they are more likely than men are to die from them within a few weeks.
  • Death rates from cardiovascular disease are higher for African-American females than for Caucasian females.

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