Heart Disease in Women

Medical Author: Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, FACP
Medical Editors: Dennis Lee, M.D., Jay W. Marks, M.D., Daniel Lee Kulick, M.D.

What is the Risk of heart attacks in women?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attacks are erroneously believed to occur primarily in men. Although it is true that the prevalence of CAD among women is lower before menopause, the risk of CAD rises in women after menopause. At age 75, a woman's risk for CAD is equal to that of a man's. CAD is the leading cause of death and disability in women after menopause. In fact, a 50-year-old woman faces a 46% risk of developing CAD and a 31% risk of dying from coronary artery disease. In contrast, her probability of contracting and dying from breast cancer is 10% and 3%, respectively.

The risk factors for developing CAD in women are the same as in men; they are increased blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking cigarettes, diabetes mellitus, and a family history of coronary heart disease at a young age.