Women and Heart Disease

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For women, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. One in two women will contract heart disease, and one in four will die from it. Until recently, women with heart disease were treated just like men. They were offered the same tests, and the same medications and procedures.

But while death rates from heart disease have dropped for men over the last 30 years, they have not dropped as significantly for women. Only recently has the medical world realized it needs to treat women with heart disease differently. Women's hearts are smaller than men's and the blood vessels are narrower. Women are at higher risk for certain kinds of heart disease, such as coronary microvascular disease (MVD) and broken heart syndrome. Heart disease – along with high blood pressure, valve disease, cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure (CHD) -- just doesn't look or feel the same in women as in men. The diseases progress differently, and women with heart disease often have different symptoms than men when they suffer a heart attack or stroke. Most alarmingly, women with heart disease were more likely than men to go undiagnosed and more likely to die of their first heart attack.

BWH: leading specialists in women and heart disease

As the first hospital in the country to focus on gender-specific medicine in a comprehensive way, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) offers state-of-the-art care for women and heart disease. Our Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women is dedicated to developing new sex- and gender-specific strategies to treat and rehabilitate women with heart disease, and to help women avoid heart disease.

Cardiologists at the Center specialize in the treatment of a broad range of heart disease, including CHD, hypertrophic cardiomyopathycardiac amyloidosis and many other conditions. We offer diagnostic tests, like intravascular ultrasound, that are more effective at detecting heart disease in women. Based on what we know about women's hearts, we take a different treatment approach for women than men, understanding that women may respond better to subtle calibrations in pacemakers or variations on angioplasty.

Heart disease in women

Women are more prone to develop certain kind of heart disease. For example, coronary microvascular disease (MVD), a condition where the heart's tiny arteries are damaged or diseased, tends to affect women more than men. This may be due to a drop in estrogen levels during menopause combined with other risk factors. Standard tests for coronary heart disease were not designed to detect coronary MVD, so the disease is often not diagnosed as soon as it should be – another reason that women should find a medical provider who understands the difference between heart disease in women and men.

Learn more about treatment options available for women with heart and disease at BWH, including congestive heart failure treatment, and heart transplant procedures. BWH also provides comprehensive treatment of medical conditions affecting women, including fibroma, ovarian cancer and other diseases.

Learn more about Women and Heart Disease at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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