13 Facts Every Woman Should Know about How Heart Disease Affects Her

Feb 8, 2016

New York

Every 90 seconds a woman dies from heart disease in the United States and more than 90 percent of women in America are at risk, according to the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association recently released its first-ever scientific statement confirming that when it comes to heart disease, women experience unique causes, symptoms and outcomes as compared to men.

In addition, certain conditions appear to increase heart disease risk in women including pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, gestational diabetes, migraine headaches with aura, early onset menopause and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Dr. Holly Andersen, director of Education and Outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Dr. Jennifer Haythe, cardiologist specializing in cardiac health during pregnancy at the Centers for Advanced Cardiac Care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center say more work needs to be done and here’s why:

  • Women are more likely to die from heart disease than men.
  • 45 percent of women still don’t know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
  • Women are less inclined to call 911 when they believe they may be experiencing heart attack symptoms.
  • Cardiovascular disease complicates up to 4 percent of pregnancies.
  • Women’s heart attack symptoms are different from men’s. They can experience shortness of breath, nausea, palpitations and jaw discomfort, in addition to chest pain.
  • 70 percent of women ages 25-60 get an annual physical, but just 40 percent report having their heart health assessed during these visits.
  • During pregnancy, hypertension is the most common acquired condition and congenital heart disease is the most common pre-existing condition.
  • Women experiencing heart attacks are less likely to receive the recommended medications to treat it or they get them much later compared to men. Every second counts during a heart attack- time is muscle.
  • Women are less likely to be referred for cardiac rehab after a heart attack.
  • The incidence of maternal cardiovascular disease appears to be growing, likely due to increasing maternal age, cardiovascular risk factors and lifespan of patients with congenital heart disease.
  • Women’s heart disease is under-researched: only 35 percent of participants in clinical trials of cardiovascular disease are women and just 31 percent of the studies report outcomes by gender.
  • Although overall death rates have declined, deaths rates have increased in younger women.
  • Pre-eclampsia is an independent predictor of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Women who have had pre-eclampsia should be mindful of having their blood pressure, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked annually.


NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the nation’s most comprehensive healthcare delivery networks, focused on providing innovative and compassionate care to patients in the New York metropolitan area and throughout the globe. In collaboration with two renowned medical school partners, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is consistently recognized as a leader in medical education, groundbreaking research and clinical innovation.

NewYork-Presbyterian has four major divisions: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is ranked #1 in the New York metropolitan area by U.S. News and World Report and repeatedly named to the magazine’s Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation; NewYork-Presbyterian Regional Hospital Network is comprised of leading hospitals in and around New York and delivers high-quality care to patients throughout the region; NewYork-Presbyterian Physician Services connects medical experts with patients in their communities; and NewYork-Presbyterian Community and Population Health features the hospital’s ambulatory care network sites and operations, community care initiatives and healthcare quality programs, including NewYork Quality Care, established by NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell and Columbia.

NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. Each year, nearly 29,000 NewYork-Presbyterian professionals deliver exceptional care to more than 2 million patients.

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