I am
Women and heart disease
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Women and heart disease

Information and resources for healthcare professionals.

Key takeaways

  • Heart disease in Australian women is currently under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-researched.

  • Present efforts are focused on improving diagnosis, treatment and care so that disparities in heart outcomes for women are minimised.
  • Heart disease can occur at any life stage, but the risk increases significantly around menopause.
  • Healthcare professionals should recognise sex-specific risk factors that can increase a woman's risk of cardiovascular disease, including pregnancy complications.
  • We have developed a range of resources to use with your patients.

Coronary heart disease is a significant issue for Australian women. Approximately 20 women die each day of coronary heart disease, killing almost three times as many Australian women as breast cancer.1 Yet the general perception of heart disease is that it is a male disease.  

Research shows that women are much less likely to undergo treatment for heart attack or angina in hospital compared to men.2 Women experiencing heart attacks have significant delays in presenting to a hospital for treatment and receiving life-saving procedures, with a four-fold delay in door to balloon time compared to men.3 Studies consistently show that women often have poorer outcomes than men following diagnosis.2  

Fortunately, there is growing recognition of the role sex and gender play in the development of cardiovascular disease, particularly regarding risk factors, pathophysiology, management and outcomes.4-6  

This has led to a universal call for:

  • more research into the sex-specific features of cardiovascular disease
  • greater consideration of sex as a determinant in risk assessment and treatment guidelines
  • better education for healthcare professionals in relation to sex and gender differences
  • access to more calibrated decision-making tools. 

The Heart Foundation is committed to improving heart health outcomes for women.  We continue to implement a range of actions to raise awareness, develop healthcare professional information and resources and invest in research to address current gaps in knowledge about heart disease in women.  

Areas of current research include the vascular complications associated with pregnancy, sudden coronary artery dissection (SCAD) and the issues associated with microvascular disease.

Vascular complications in pregnancy

Cardiovascular disease risk associated with pregnancy has until recent times been poorly acknowledged, researched and understood. Find out how pregnancy complications can contribute to cardiovascular risk in women.

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)

SCAD mostly affects women with few traditional risk factors. Being aware of the warning signs of a heart attack and knowing how to respond is important advice for all women. Clinical information on SCAD and resources for your patients can be found, here.

Risk factors and warning signs of a heart attack in women

The risk of cardiovascular disease in women changes throughout life’s course. It is important for the public and healthcare professionals to be aware of the risk factors and heart attack warning signs affecting women. Read more, here

Women in cardiology networks

Cardiology is an area of medicine with low female representation, particularly in the subspecialties of interventional cardiology and electrophysiology. 

As a response, several women cardiology groups have formed around the world to provide mentorship, visible role models and foster opportunities for research collaboration. 

In Australia there are two notable groups:

  1. The NSW Hearts and Heels Female Cardiology Roundtable
  2. The Victorian Women in Cardiology Group 
The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) has also established the Women in Cardiology Working Group. Visit the CSANZ website for more information.

Information for patients

We have a range of useful resources to help you educate and support your patients in managing their cardiovascular disease risk or heart condition.

Our information and resources include:

Reports and statements on women and heart disease

The following resources and links to webinars might be of personal or professional interest:  

Australian reports and editorials

 International reports and statements

Webinars

  • Heart health: links to cancer treatment – This webinar discusses the link between cancer treatments and the long-term impacts on heart health.
  • Women in Cardiology ESC Congress 2020 - The Heart Foundation, along with the NSW Hearts and Heels Cardiology Roundtable and the Victorian Women in Cardiology group held a digital networking event to replace real time networking at the 2020 European Society of Cardiology Congress meeting in Amsterdam.

Last reviewed: 6/10/2021

You might also be interested in

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

For professionals: Heart Health Checks

Heart Health Checks have been supported by Medicare since April 2019....

Acute Coronary Syndromes tools from the guidelines

Acute Coronary Syndromes tools from the guidelines

Assessment protocols and algorithm for health care professionals...

Heart Health Network

Heart Health Network

Heart Health Network

Heart Health Network is the Heart Foundation’s newsletter for health professionals delivered to your inbox once a month....

For Professionals: COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

For Professionals: COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

For Professionals: COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

Information and resources for health care professionals....

Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) clinical resources

Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

A multidisciplinary panel of experts discuss the practical application of absolute CVD risk assessment through Heart Health Checks....

This Father’s Day share the ways you protect your heart

This Father’s Day share the ways you protect your heart

This Father’s Day share the ways you protect your heart

Have you thought about what you are getting for your children this Father’s Day?...

Acute Coronary Syndromes (ACS) clinical guidelines

Acute Coronary Syndromes (ACS) clinical guidelines

Guidelines for acute coronary syndromes for clinical care of patients presenting with suspected or confirmed ACS....

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

Ask the experts: caring for people with CVD during COVID-19...

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Information on how air pollution, heatwaves and bushfires can impact heart health, and what you can do to look after yourself. ...

What is angina?

What is angina?

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD)....

Taking your heart medicines

Taking your heart medicines

Taking your heart medicines

Know what your heart medicines are for and how to take them. ...

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

Should population-based CVD risk assessment models make way for individualised risk prediction techniques?...

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Check back in for the latest updates on our alumni-exclusive events ...

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Search our lunch recipe ideas...

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

30 minutes
Serves 4

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

30 minutes
Serves 2

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Order patient resources online

Order patient resources online

Search and order from our range of printed patient resources online. ...

Q&A with Dr Thanh Nho Do

Q&A with Dr Thanh Nho Do

Q&A with Dr Thanh Nho Do

Developing a new soft robotic heart device to help people with heart failure awaiting a heart transplant ...

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Find heart healthy seafood recipes...

WEBINAR | Navigating the latest updates on CVD prevention

WEBINAR | Navigating the latest updates on CVD prevention

Heart failure clinical resources

Heart failure clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Apple & honey nut crumble oats

Apple & honey nut crumble oats

Apple & honey nut crumble oats

10 minutes
Serves 2

Breakfast recipes

Breakfast recipes

Breakfast recipes

Heart healthy breakfasts to start your day right...

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information and resources for healthcare professionals....

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Learn more about Heart Foundation Walking and find your local walking group....

Atrial fibrillation resources for patients

Atrial fibrillation resources for patients

Absolute CVD risk calculator

Absolute CVD risk calculator

The Absolute CVD risk calculator estimates the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years....

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

WEBINAR | Lipids in the limelight: clinical update on screening and management

WEBINAR | Lipids in the limelight: clinical update on screening and management

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition ...

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and management

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and management

Absolute CVD risk assessment is an integrated approach that estimates the cumulative risk of multiple risk factors to predict a heart attack or stroke event in the next five years....

Q&A with Dr Nathan Palpant

Q&A with Dr Nathan Palpant

Q&A with Dr Nathan Palpant

Deadly spider venom offers hope to people having a heart attack...

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Clinical information for diagnosis and management of hypertension....