Heart Disease 

Women & Heart Disease 


  • 3 times more women die of heart disease than breast cancer in Australia. 
  • 50 Australian women have a heart attack every day.
  • 24 women die every day of heart disease in Australia. 


Unfortunately, many women aren't aware of these statistics and heart disease is too often perceived as a common illness among middle-aged men. In fact, the risk of heart problems increases significantly once women reach menopause.

There tends to be a common misconception when it comes to the symptoms associated with heart disease in women. These symptoms can vary to those in men, so it’s important that women take the steps to understand the symptoms unique to them. Only one in three women will experience ‘typical’ heart attack symptoms such as chest pain. Instead, many women suffer from less common warning signs such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one of both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Unusual feelings of fatigue
  • Heart palpitations

 While these symptoms can be more subtle than the associated crushing chest pain, it’s important to take them seriously. Another difference to be aware of is the type of chest pain women may experience, as it tends to be described as pressure or tightness.

 Women’s heart attack symptoms may actually occur more often when they are asleep or resting and can even be triggered by stress.  If you experience any of these symptoms or think you are having a heart attack, immediately call an ambulance.  

Risk factors

While several traditional risk factors for heart disease can affect both women and men, other factors may play a greater role in the onset of heart disease in women. These can include:

  • High cholesterol
  •  High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Stress and depression
  • Smoking
  •  Inactivity
  •  Menopause 
  • Pregnancy complications 

Signs of poor heart health are not always obvious, which is why it's important to regularly monitor things like your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and glucose. It is also important to encourage the women close to you to have regular check-ups to reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack. 


Similar action is taken to treat heart disease in both men and women. Depending on the diagnosis, treatments can include medications, angioplasty, stenting, coronary bypass surgery or cardiac rehabilitation. Your doctor may also recommend a change in lifestyle to delay the onset of heart disease.


There are a number of lifestyle changes women can make to reduce their risk of developing heart disease.  They can include:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Partake in regular exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Consume a healthy balanced diet
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