Cardiovascular Health for Women

Heart disease affects women, as well as men, often with different symptoms and for different reasons.

Our cardiovascular experts ensure women receive the thorough and timely care they deserve. In the past, women sometimes received less aggressive treatment for heart disease and were not referred for diagnostic tests as often. As a result, when many women were finally diagnosed with heart disease, they usually had more advanced disease and their prognosis was poorer. We now know that cardiovascular diseases affect more women than men and are responsible for more than 40% of all deaths in American women.

Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks in women may be different from those experienced by men. Many women who have a heart attack do not know it. Women tend to feel a burning sensation in their upper abdomen and may experience lightheadedness, an upset stomach, and sweating. Because they may not feel the typical pain in the left half of their chest, many women may ignore that indicate they are having a heart attack. Heart attacks are generally more severe in women than in men. In the first year after a heart attack, women are more than 50% more likely to die than men are. In the first 6 years after a heart attack, women are almost twice as likely to have a second heart attack


Studies have shown that after menopause, women experience an increased risk of heart disease. Researchers have connected this pattern to decreasing levels of the female hormone estrogen during menopause. Estrogen is associated with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good cholesterol") and lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad cholesterol"). Withdrawal of the natural estrogen that occurs in menopause leads to lower "good cholesterol" and higher "bad cholesterol" thus increasing the risk of heart disease.

Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills may pose an increased cardiovascular risk for women, especially those with other risk factors such as smoking. Researchers believe that birth control pills raise blood pressure and blood sugar levels in some women, as well as increase the risk of blood clots. The risks associated with birth control pills increase as women get older. Women should tell their doctors about any other cardiovascular risk factors they have before they begin taking birth control pills.
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Spectrum Health Heart & Vascular Center at Holland Hospital
(616) 392-3824


Shannon Walko, DO, Lakeshore Health Partners-Internal Medicine discusses cardiovascular health and women.
Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for women. Lynn Cronin, MD, Spectrum Health Heart & Vascular Center talks about taking action to protect a woman's heart.