Women and Heart Disease Symptoms and Treatment

There is a simple reason why heart health is different for men and women. Their cardiovascular structure is different. This includes women having smaller hearts and narrower blood vessels.

Women and Heart Disease

Until recently, women with heart disease were treated just like men—with the same tests, the same procedures, the same medications. Women, however, were not doing as well as men. In fact, women with heart disease were more likely than men to go undiagnosed and more likely to die of their first heart attack.

Heart disease does not look or feel the same in women as in men. Most conditions, including high blood pressure, valve disease, cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure, progress differently in women than in men. Women also often have different symptoms than men when they suffer a heart attack or stroke. They are more likely to report sharp, burning chest pain, as well as pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back.

Key data about women and heart disease:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death among U.S. women, accounting for about one in every four female deaths. It is the leading cause of death for African-American and White women; it accounts for about the same number of deaths as cancer in Hispanic women; and it is second to cancer in causing death among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Asian women.
  • Nearly two-thirds of women who died suddenly of coronary artery disease had no previous symptoms.

Women and Heart Disease Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women is committed to improving and maintaining women's heart health through excellence in clinical care, research, patient and provider education, and community outreach and advocacy.

Based on what we have learned about women’s hearts, specialists at the Center offer services that are targeted toward women. We offer diagnostic tests, like intravascular ultrasound, that are better at detecting heart disease in women. We also approach treatment decisions with the knowledge that women can benefit from treatments that are different from those used in men, from subtle calibrations in pacemakers to variations on angioplasty.

Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

For over 180 years, Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been the most trusted name in women’s health – a world leader in helping women live longer, healthier lives. From routine and complex gynecology and obstetrics to advanced gender-specific care in all areas of health, we are leading the way in women’s health.

The Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been the site of important advances in women’s health. Beginning with the 1832 opening of our predecessor hospital, the Boston Lying-In Hospital (one of the nation’s first maternity hospitals), milestones include:

  • Anesthesia administered during childbirth for the first time
  • Development of non-invasive fetal heart monitoring, enabling physicians to more safely and accurately detect fetal distress during labor
  • Launched the landmark Nurses' Health Study, one of the largest and longest-running studies of women ever conducted

Our team works to improve the health of women and transform their care. Our vision is that each woman will receive care that is informed by a deep understanding of sex and gender differences in biology, physiology, and response to disease, with the goal of better health and quality-of-life.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care – involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and where we could improve. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Cardiovascular Disease in Women Care Team

The care team at the Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women is committed to patients and their families. Each patient's diagnosis and treatment plan will be designed and tailored to their needs. Our team of highly skilled doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals work together to deliver the highest quality care to every patient.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our women and heart disease experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH