Despite reductions in heart-related deaths overall, heart disease in women remains underdiagnosed and undertreated, especially in African-American women.
That’s according to a recent statement by the American Heart Association, which reviewed the latest data on symptoms, treatments, and the types of heart attacks among women.
Why is this so? Perhaps because a woman’s coronary artery disease may appear to be less severe than the average man’s, women are a little less likely than men to be treated with medication or procedures to restore blood flow to the heart. When procedures are performed, women may experience slightly more frequent complications because their blood vessels tend to be smaller.
Heart attacks differ between women and men in numerous ways. For starters, women who have heart attacks also tend to be 5 to 10 years older than their male counterparts, and are more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure.
Women are also somewhat less likely than men to have plaque buildup in the large arteries leading to the heart. Instead, they are more likely to have damage to small blood vessels on the heart’s outer surface leading to its inner lining.
The AHA encourages women to have more open and candid discussions with their doctors about medication and interventional treatments to prevent and treat a heart attack.
Read more about threats to women’s health, including weight gain.
Amy Norton has been a medical journalist since 1999. She was a staff writer and editor for Physician’s Weekly and Reuters Health, and has written on health and medicine for MSNBC, The Scientist, Prevention and HealthDay. When she’s not writing, she is teaching yoga.