Who is more prone to heart attacks, men or women?


There has been a rising incidence of heart attacks in India, especially in the last few years. An RTI filed by an activist further revealed that Mumbai witnessed a six-fold rise in deaths related to heart attacks in the first month of 2021. Recently, celebrity deaths owing to heart attacks have added to the grim reality.

As the world shows an increased shift towards heart health awareness, it’s important to understand if gender plays a role when it comes to the possibility of suffering a heart attack. A study, published in JAMA Internal Medicinefound that throughout life, men were about twice as likely as women to have a heart attack.

Agreeing with the finding, Dr Amit Bhushan Sharma, Associate Director and Unit Head- Cardiology Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, said that heart attacks are much more likely in the male population as compared to their female counterparts.


“This is because women, till the time they have their menstrual cycles have hormonal protection against a heart attack. Also, women are much more emotionally stronger as compared to men,” he said.

In the younger male population, however, lack of hormonal protection isn’t the only reason behind the possibility of a heart attack. “We see more males with heart attacks because they tend to be smokers and have more stress that results in diabetes and hypertension — the primary risk factors for heart attacks. Hence, younger men are more prone to heart attacks,” Dr Abhijit Kulkarni, Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals Bengaluru, said.

Dr Devendra Kumar Shrimal, Director-Interventional Cardiology, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur, said that the size of a woman’s heart, as well as some of its interior chambers, is typically smaller. “Some of these compartments have thinner partition walls. Additionally, although pumping more quickly than a man’s, a woman’s heart expels around 10 per cent less blood every contraction. Also, a woman’s heart rate and, in turn, the blood flow increases when she is under stress. The arteries of a man’s heart, on the other hand, narrow under stress increasing blood pressure,” he explained.

Apart from being more prone to heart attacks, men also stand at a risk of getting a heart attack much earlier in life. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Thin cap atheroma in the younger male population is another reason behind heart ailments. Describing the same, Dr Sharma said, “When you have a thick cap blockage, it won’t burst suddenly; it increases gradually. But when you have a thin cap blockage, in case of any sudden emotional outburst, a marathon, cycling, etc, the blockage suddenly increases.”

Apart from being more prone to heart attacks, men also stand at a risk of getting a heart attack much earlier in life. According to health.clevelandclinic.orgthe average age for a heart attack is 70 in women, but 66 in men.

Agreed Dr Kanav Khera, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice/Pharmacology, Lovely Professional University. “Men are more likely to get heart attacks at an earlier age,” he said. However, Dr Shrimal highlighted that young people experiencing heart attacks increased from 21 per cent to 31 per cent more frequently among women, a greater increase than among young males.

“Many young women too, nowadays, have thin cap blockages due to smokingpoor lifestyle habits, PCOD, delayed pregnancies, etc,” Dr Sharma said, on the possible reason behind the same.


The average age of a heart attack in women is 70 while it is 66 in men.

Dr. Devendra Kumar ShrimalDirector-Interventional Cardiology, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur

As such, it is crucial to not neglect women’s heart health. Experts noted that post-menopause when the protective effect of hormones is lost, women are equally predisposed to heart attacks. “A person’s risk of cardiovascular disease is decreased by estrogen. However, estrogen levels fall as a result of menopause and surgical menopause. As a result, a person is at a higher risk of developing blood clots, artery plaque, and having high cholesterol,” Dr Shrimal said.

Dr Kulkarni added: “Apart from menopause, PCOD and other hormonal disorders in women are also associated with diabetes and hypertension. These are primary risk factors for coronary heart disease.”

However, Dr Khera believes that PCOS alone does not increase your risk of heart disease. “Elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased insulin levels and glucose intolerance are common occurrences in women with PCOS, all of which escalate the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease in affected individuals. For this reason, doctors and researchers alike have believed women with PCOS are more likely to develop heart problems,” he said.

Do men and women experience similar symptoms?

A heart attack in women may not necessarily look or feel the same as it does in males, experts said. “Generally, females do not have classical symptoms like chest pain. They tend to have more vague symptoms like fatigue, unable to do things, some upper back pain and neck pain. Most symptoms are significant in males,” Dr Kulkarni elucidated.

Here are some heart-attack warnings to look out for in men and women.

heart attack, womenGenerally, females do not have classical symptoms like chest pain. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Symptoms in men

*Chest pain/tightening
*Upper body pain in the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach
*Rapid heartbeats
*Shortness of breath
*Cold sweat

Symptoms in women

*Unusual fatigue lasting for several days
*Sleep disturbances
*Shortness of breath
*Upper back, shoulder or throat pain
*Jaw pain
*Pressure or pain in the centre of the chest, which may spread to the arm

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