Women and men share largely the same risk factors for heart disease. These include smoking, being overweight, being inactive, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol and having diabetes, as well as a family history of heart disease.
However, some of these risk factors can affect women differently:
- Women metabolise nicotine faster than men, so smoking creates a bigger risk for women.
- Women with diabetes are at a greater risk of heart disease than men with diabetes.
- A family history of heart disease can be a stronger predictor of heart disease in women.
In addition, the following risk factors affect only women:
- gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
- hormonal dysfunctions such as polycystic ovary syndrome
- menopause – after menopause, a woman’s risk of heart disease increases substantially. This is believed to be because the low levels of the hormone oestrogen may provide less protection from heart disease.