Women and Heart Disease

We often associate heart disease and heart attacks with middle aged or older men. But in fact, heart disease kills more Canadian women than men.

>> Download your FREE Heart Disease and Women information pack. 

Know the facts

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Canada for women over the age of 55.

Women are more likely to die from heart disease than from any other disease. 1

in Canada, women are 16 per cent more likely than men to die after a heart attack.

  In Canada, stroke kills 32 per cent more women than men. 1

Heart disease and stroke kills seven times as many women as breast cancer.

Yet 37% of Canadian women perceive breast cancer to be the greatest health problem, compared to 13% for heart disease. 1

Janelle has felt the impact of cardiovascular disease first hand.

Janelle, a supporter of HRI, lost her mother to a heart attack in 2003. 

Her mother had suffered from severe headaches over a period of time, however “no-one ever gave much thought to the possibility that her heart was the problem as she didn’t fit the stereotype for heart disease. She was slimly built and had a low level of ‘the bad’ cholesterol. No-one considered it may have been an anomaly in blood flow to her head that was causing her headaches.”

Knowing the risk factors

Most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Women who have diabetes, come from certain ethnic backgrounds or are menopausal are even more at risk.

When women reach menopause, their risk of developing heart disease increases. It has been suspected that this increased risk is possibly related to a drop in the hormone estrogen that happens in women at menopause.

Other risk factors include high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, being overweight, family history, race and social and economic factors.

Heart attack in women

Symptoms and signs

When a heart attack strikes, it doesn’t always feel the same in women as in men. Women don't always get the same “classic” heart attack symptoms such as crushing chest pain that radiates down one arm. Those heart attack symptoms can certainly happen to women, but many experience “silent” symptoms that they may miss.

These symptoms are common in women:

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Pain in your arms, back, neck, or jaw

  • Stomach pain

  • Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness.

  • Sweating

  • Fatigue

How our research is saving lives

Our Vascular Immunology Group has discovered that the severity of high blood pressure or hypertension in expectant mothers - preeclampsia - impacts on high blood pressure later in life. These findings will allow women to better manage their risk of circulation and heart problems in future. 


1 Heart and Stroke Foundation

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