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Home > Your Heart & Conditions > Women and Heart Disease

Women & Heart Disease

Why are heart disease and cardiac surgery more dangerous for women?

No one can say with certainty why heart disease kills more women than men, or why women present a special risk for cardiac surgery. Thankfully, though, more and more research is being conducted among women with heart disease, and researchers can now begin to speculate on why women and men develop and respond differently to the disease and treatments for it.

Women Are a High-Risk Group for Bypass Surgery
  • Women have higher morbidity and mortality rates than men after conventional CABG.1,2
  • Female gender is an independent risk factor for mortality in conventional CABG.1

    One obvious difference between the genders is size of the coronary arteries. Women's arteries are simply smaller than men's, making surgery more delicate and difficult. Smaller arteries also means than even relatively small obstructions can have a bigger impact.

    Much more importantly, though, women tend to be sicker when they're first diagnosed. Women's symptoms can be more subtle than men's and most women still don't think of heart disease as a significant health threat. As caretakers of others, many women also habitually put their own health needs last, waiting longer to investigate emerging symptoms than they should.

    Probably due in part to this delay in first recognizing symptoms, women often begin treatment -- including surgery -- when their heart disease is at a more advanced stage. Women also require more emergency surgeries (as opposed to scheduled surgeries) than men do.

    More "co-diseases"
    Women also tend to be older than men when they first begin treatment for heart disease. As a result, they have more "co-diseases," like diabetes or hypertension, than men do when treatment begins. As you might expect, each additional illness brings with it additional complications.

    To make the inroads necessary to reduce or reverse these trends, women and the physicians who treat them must make prevention and early detection of heart disease a priority.

    For more information about women and bypass surgery please visit:

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