Victor Chang Institute "Women Against Heart Disease" Lunch - The Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney - Thursday 16th August, 2018
Photographer: Belinda Rolland © 2018

Women and Heart Disease 

Watch these videos:

What Every Woman Should Know about Heart Disease

Listen to Women and Heart Disease from Preventative Health in Podcasts:

For more information about women and heart disease read these:

Women and Cardiovascular Disease GP Connect Sydney Cardiology Group

Calling all women, are you at risk of a heart attack? Macquarie University Hospital GP E-news

How to Treat Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Women
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Women and heart disease risk factors, how to treat


Heart Disease is the single biggest killer of Australian Women. It kills 3 times as many women than breast cancer. However awareness is still low, <40% of women know heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.

Some worrying facts:

  • every hour of every day, an Australian Woman dies of heart disease. Ie 24 female lives are lost every day!
  • 11 Australian women die each day from a myocardial infarction (MI)
  • One woman dies of an MI every two hours
  • 50 Australian women have a MI each day
  • Women have increased mortality compared to men after an MI

Women with an MI often have an atypical presentation

  • >40% of women will not present with chest pain,
  • Other symptoms include pain in the jaw/neck/throat/shoulder/arm;
  • Shortness of breath, a cold sweat, extreme fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.

Risk factors:

  • >90% of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease
  • 50% have 2 or more risk factors
  • 1 in 3 women have high blood pressure or high cholesterol: nearly half a million aged 30-65 have high blood pressure or high cholesterol without knowing it.
  • A woman’s risk of heart disease increases after menopause and gradually equals that of men.
  • Cardiovascular risk factors include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, a family history of heart disease, being overweight/obese, physically inactive, depression,
  • < 1in 3 women have had a heart health check with their GP.
  • The Heart Foundation recommend a ‘heart health check” for women >45yo.

Young Women and Heart Disease

  • risk factors don’t just begin after menopause, they start to appear in the late teens and early 20s.
  • For Women aged 18-44: 1in 10 have high blood pressure, 1in 5 have high cholesterol, close to 1 million are obese and >1 million are overweight.

Other risk factors that are particular to young women

  • Non obstetric risk factors such as dysfunction in ovulation, early age of menarch and premature menopause all increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome – increases risk of future CVD, high blood pressure, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome
  • Autoimmune diseases (eg Rheumatoid arthritis, SLE) are more prevalent in females, and increase their relative risk of coronary artery disease
  • Obstetric Risk factors: preeclampsia, eclampsia, any hypertension in pregnancy, placental abruption, low birth weight <2500g, stillbirth/miscarriage, delivery <32 weeks and gestational diabetes all increase future cardiovascular risk.

Young Women and MIs

  • Despite the reduction in MIs in the general population, there has been an increase in rates of MIs in young women.
  • They have worse outcomes compared to similar aged men: such as higher in-hospital and 30day mortality rates and higher readmission rates.
  • They also have more risk factors, more comorbidities and a poorer health status than similarly aged men.

Key Messages:

  1. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women
  2. Women often have atypical symptoms
  3. Know the risk factors – females >55 should have a heart health check including measuring their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
  4. Even young women are at risk of an MI, and certain pregnancy related complications, increase their cardiovascular risk. A female who has had a pregnancy related complication such as gestational diabetes or hypertension should be followed up regularly.
Pregnancy Related Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Get a Heart Health Check