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Women and heart disease
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Women and heart disease

Information on women and heart disease for consumers.

Key takeaways

  • Cardiovascular disease (an umbrella term that includes heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease) is the leading cause of death for women globally.
  • Almost every hour of every day an Australian woman dies of heart disease.
  • Heart disease in women can occur at any age but the risk changes throughout life’s course.
  • Women are less likely to attend cardiac rehabilitation, less likely to take their medicine regularly, and are less likely to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
  • For women aged 45 and over (or 30 and over for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women), speak to your GP about your risk of heart attack and stroke and have a Heart Health Check.
3 min read

Almost every hour of every day an Australian woman dies of coronary heart disease. On average that equates to 20 women a day.1

Research shows that women are much less likely to undergo treatment for heart attack or angina (chest pain) in hospital compared to men.1   

For women, the risk of cardiovascular disease changes throughout life’s course. It’s important to be aware of the risk factors that specifically affect women, and what you can do to look after your heart health.2

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)

  • SCAD is an example of a condition that occurs more frequently in women.
  • It occurs when a split suddenly develops between the inner layers of a coronary artery. Blood flows into this space and reduces the amount of blood flowing through the artery. This means less blood and oxygen reach the heart.
  • The symptoms of SCAD are similar to those of a heart attack or angina (chest pain). Most people who have SCAD have few or no known risk factors.
  • Recognising the warning signs of a heart attack, and getting treatment as quickly as possible, is important for women of all ages.

For more information on SCAD see the following videos:  

Pregnancy complications

Pregnancy is often referred to as the ‘ultimate stress test’ for the body. Some of the complications of pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. Find out how pregnancy complications can contribute to cardiovascular risk in women.  

Risk factors and warning signs in women

Know the full range of risk factors and warning signs of a heart attack in women.  

If you are aged 45 and over (or 30 and over for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women) speak to your GP about your risk of heart attack and stroke and have a Heart Health Check.

Recovery after a heart attack or angina

Women of any age may be diagnosed with a heart condition. What happens next can be dependent on the type of heart condition.

Many people who have been diagnosed with a heart condition go on to live long, full lives. However, it's important to make lifestyle changes to manage your heart health over the longer term.  

If you have been discharged from hospital after a diagnosis or a procedure, the steps to recovery are likely to be:   

Support groups for women and younger people who are living with a heart condition

The Heart Collective

The Heart Collective is an informal network of women with heart disease, created to provide a safe environment for women to connect, share experiences and learn from each other. 

Supporting Young Hearts

Our Supporting Young Hearts program provides opportunities for young people to connect with each other, share stories and learn about how to manage their heart condition.

Last reviewed: 6/10/2021

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