disease in men vs women

Signs of Heart Problems in Men vs Women

Signs of heart problems in men and women show differently. Of course, heart disease affects both men and women, not only in the USA but globally. The latest data from the American Heart Association reveal that nearly 31 million adults in the U.S. have heart disease

At least 650,000 (348,000 men and 300,000 women) of these individuals die each year from heart disease, making it the number one cause of death in the nation. The signs of heart problems in men and the signs of heart disease in women can be subtly different, and you should know about them both.

Men are more likely to have a heart attack at age 65, whereas women are more likely to develop one at age 72. However, when women develop a heart attack, they are more likely to die compared to men of the same age. It is important to understand that, for the most part, heart disease in both genders is preventable by lowering the risk factors. 

In many cases, an individual may have recognizable signs and symptoms of heart disease. The earlier the symptoms are recognized, the earlier the diagnosis can be made, and treatment is undertaken. Individuals with a family history of heart disease or those who have risk factors for heart disease should follow up closely with a healthcare provider to ensure that the disease is not worsening.

What are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

  1. Gender: In general, men are at a much higher risk for developing heart disease compared to women. But this gap narrows in the postmenopausal period. 
  2. Obesity is a risk factor in both men and women. It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight. The heart is under tremendous stress in people who are overweight.
  3. Smoking is a common risk factor in both genders. Nicotine is known to narrow the blood vessels and prevent oxygen from reaching the tissues, including the heart.
  4. High blood pressure is a common risk factor for heart disease. 
  5. An unhealthy diet, such as regular consumption of fast and processed foods that are rich in saturated fats and salt.
  6. Excessive consumption of alcohol.
  7. Having high levels of cholesterol.
  8. Presence of diabetes.
  9. Having a family history of heart disease.

Data shows that more than 50 percent of men and women tend to have three or more risk factors for heart disease. But it is important to know that there are subtle differences in how men and women present with heart disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

In general, both men and women share similar symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks, but there are some subtle differences in their presentation as outlined below.

Signs of Heart Problems in Men

  • The chest pain may be crushing in nature, or it may present with a squeezing sensation
  • Others may complain of fullness in the chest area or discomfort
  • The pain may radiate to the jaw, arm, or back
  • Shortness of breath is a common complaint
  • Men are also more likely to break out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea may be a common feature

Signs of Heart Disease in Women

In general, women are less likely to experience crushing chest pain. Instead, they are more likely to present with the following symptoms:

  • Pain radiating to the neck, jaw, or chest
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • A squeezing sensation in the upper back and chest area
  • A sensation of pressure, fullness, or pressure that is centered in the mid-chest

Because the symptoms of a heart attack are not typical, women often mistake these symptoms for some other cause, like peptic ulcer disease, acid reflux, or muscle pain. Delay in seeking care often leads to more complications and even death.

Why Are There Differences in Symptoms between Men and Women?

Researchers have noted both psychological and physiological differences between men and women who have heart disease, which include the following:

  1. Women are more likely to see a healthcare provider when they develop symptoms whereas men often feel that the symptoms are not heart-related and, consequently, feel that there is no urgency in seeing a physician.
  2. Women also report that when they complain about heart problems, the provider may not listen to them or may not consider the symptoms to be of importance. 
  3. Both men and women report that healthcare providers are in too much of a hurry to find out the reason why they are having heart symptoms. Healthcare providers do not spend enough time with these patients and, consequently, the diagnosis of heart disease can be delayed.
  4. Another reason for the disparities in the management of heart disease is compliance with treatment. Women tend to visit the emergency room if they have symptoms, but men often delay in seeking help thinking that the symptoms are not heart-related.
  5. Finally, women are of smaller size compared to men and also have smaller-sized coronary vessels that supply oxygen to the heart. The small size also makes it more difficult for surgeons to perform the bypass because of technical limitations.

Lowering the Risks of Heart Disease

Both men and women can lower their risks of heart disease by making the following changes in their lifestyle:

  • Discontinue smoking
  • Be compliant with blood pressure medications
  • Control blood sugars
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Become physically active
  • Avoid excess intake of alcohol
  • Lower stress
  • Lose weight, if overweight


Heart disease is common in both males and females. Signs of heart problems in men and signs of heart disease in women can be somewhat different.  While there are some subtle differences in the symptoms of heart disease in the two genders, it is important to understand that delay in seeking treatment can sometimes prove to be fatal. 

The best way to know if you have heart disease is to undergo a screening test that is best determined by your cardiologist. And even if you have been diagnosed with heart disease, you can positively change your lifestyle and significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack.

Cano Health has started a new cardiovascular disease prevention program, Healthy Heart by Dr. Juan Rivera. It has been said that one in five heart attacks happen without the person having the attack even realizing it. The best way to prevent a heart attack is to arm yourself with knowledge.  

Dr. Juan Rivera is a nationally acclaimed and well-respected cardiologist, and he leads this new program to explore the care of the heart.  To learn more about Cano Health and the Healthy Heart by Dr. Juan, please call today at 1-855-447-6059.  Your heart will be glad you did!


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