Women and Heart Disease

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

What’s the greatest health challenge facing American women? Many are surprised to learn it's heart disease. In fact, more American women die from heart disease than from all forms of cancer combined.

To help bring attention to this startling fact, Aurora invites all women to access our Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center. This nationally recognized resource center has several goals:

  • To give women the tools they need to avoid or manage heart disease risks
  • To make more people aware of the signs of heart disease in womenso they can advocate for early diagnosis and treatment 
  • To make more people aware that heart disease is the leading killer of American women

Women and Heart Disease Statistics

Studies show many people incorrectly believe heart disease affects mostly men. Unfortunately, the statistics paint an entirely different picture:

  • 1 in 2 American women will die of heart disease or stroke, while 1 in 25 women will die of breast cancer
  • 1 in 4 women has some form of cardiovascular disease
  • 8 million American women today have some type of heart disease
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women over age 25
  • Heart disease claims the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year
  • The death rate from heart disease has decreased among men, but continues to increase in women

Research Studies—Then and Now

Why is it that women and heart disease statisticsare not commonly known?

Perhaps one reason has to do with history. A few decades ago, most research studies on heart disease and stroke were performed on men. As a result, men’s symptoms became well known while signs of heart disease in womenwere largely overlooked. In addition, the standards for diagnosing and treating people with heart attacks were based on men’s needs.

Thanks to more recent studies, the medical community is more aware that heart disease strikes both men and women in equal numbers. It also knows that heart disease symptoms for womenare different than they are for men. For example:

  • The majority of women (78 percent) reported at least one unusual symptom in the month before their heart attack, such as unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, indigestion or anxiety. 
  • Signs of heart disease in womengenerally appear 10 years later than the do in men.
  • When men have a heart attack, they often experience pain in the chest and arm. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to experience nausea, vomiting, jaw pain, back pain or shortness of breath, often without significant chest or arm pain.

What Women Need to Do

At Aurora, we want women to become more aware of their risks for heart disease and take a more active role in avoiding and managing them. For example:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels

If you have several heart disease risks, you may want to be evaluated at a center that has lots of experience in diagnosing and treating women with heart disease. Doctors at large, multidisciplinary heart centers are more likely to be familiar with gender differences in heart disease symptoms. They also are more likely to have access to latest technology, ensuring you receive the most appropriate testing for your symptoms and risks.

If you aren’t comfortable with your doctor’s diagnosis or treatment recommendations, we encourage you to get a second opinion.

Leading Midwest Cardiology Program

Aurorais known for having one of the best cardiology programs in the United States. Our multidisciplinary care includes access to outstanding doctors and services for preventing, diagnosing and treating women and heart disease. We also offer a full-service rehab program to ensure your optimal recovery.

Our doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or cardiologist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.