Gender

Man and WomanOverall, men have a higher risk for heart attack than women, but the difference narrows after women reach menopause. This is a result of a drop in estrogen levels, increasing the risk for women until it matches that of men.

After the age of 65, the risk for heart disease is about the same between the sexes when other risk factors are similar.

Risk for Men

  • Men are at a greater risk for CVD than premenopausal women.
  • Men are three to five times more likely to have CVD than women.

Risk for Women

  • Cardiovascular risk increases significantly among women after the age of 65.
  • After menopause, the risk for CVD increases to almost the same level as that of men, as a result of declining estrogen levels.
  • Younger women who have diabetes are at the same risk for heart disease as men their age.
  • Overall, women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men.

For more information, view our infographic to better understand "What we know about women and heart disease".

Symptoms

Both men and women experience the most common symptoms of a heart attack, but women may feel or respond to these symptoms differently. Women tend to put off seeking treatment because they are less likely to believe they’re actually having a heart attack.

Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest pain (including chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning, or heaviness)
  • Discomfort or pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness

It’s important to take note of any other signs or symptoms that you think may be associated with a heart attack. Some people experience symptoms that are less common. For example, women will experience symptoms that are less definite, such as chest discomfort rather than chest pain.

In some cases, chest pain may not be the first sign of heart trouble. In others, some people, particularly women, report feeling less familiar symptoms up to a month or so before a heart attack occurs

Less common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Unusual tiredness
  • Sleep trouble
  • Problems breathing
  • Indigestion
  • Anxiety

Diagnostic testing, warning signs, and symptoms may be felt differently by women. If you’re a woman who has already reached menopause, the Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests things you can do to prevent cardiovascular disease.