Differences between men and women

Find out how the risk of cardiovascular disease differs for women and men

Approximately 20% of women in Europe die of ischaemic heart disease. Women with ischaemic heart disease are more likely to die than men of a similar age.

Women have higher cholesterol levels than men after their fifth decade of life, and their “good” cholesterol tends to decrease after the menopause. Hormonal changes after the menopause induce the clustering of several risk factors for the heart and blood vessels such as increased blood pressure, obesity and raised lipid levels. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not be used by postmenopausal women to prevent cardiovascular disease as it seems to increase their risk. Ask your doctor about the best option for you. Short-term HRT can be used to relieve menopause symptoms in young women with no other cardiovascular risk factors.

Women differ in presentation of ischaemic heart disease: fewer women present with the classic symptoms of chest pain. They often report arm, back or jaw pain, dyspnea (shortness of breath), weakness, palpitations, light-headedness. Read more about warning signs.

Conventional risk factor scoring systems frequently underestimate the individual risk of women, so sex-specific scores should be used by health care practitioners.