In a previous blog post, we discussed some of the differences between women and men when it comes to cardiovascular disease (CVD). We examined how women often have different, less ‘common’ symptoms than men when experiencing a heart attack. We also explored how CVD often presents as microvascular disease in women—a less commonly-understood form of heart disease that has different symptoms than other forms of heart disease, which are often more easily recognized.
Did you know that on top of having different symptoms, women also have different risk factors for heart disease than men? In this piece, we’ll explore some of those risk factors and discuss why early identification of cardiovascular health risks is vital to detecting this deadly disease in women early on. Here we’ll discuss some of the risk factors specific to women; however, it should not be discounted that many of the risk factors common in men are also common in women—such as smoking, diabetes, inactivity, obesity, and high blood pressure.
These are just a few of the risk factors for women when it comes to heart disease:
Estrogen and Menopause
Estrogen plays an important role in regulating cardiovascular health in women during their reproductive age (roughly 12 to 50 years old) and reduces their risk of developing heart disease prior to menopause. However, as women age and begin to enter menopause, their estrogen levels go down, thereby increasing their heart disease risk factor.¹
Some studies have shown that prolonged use of low-dose oral contraceptives can increase a woman’s risk of arterial thrombosis blood clots forming in an artery, which can increase their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.²
It is widely understood that pregnancy can cause a number of heart-related complications, which may lead to CVD. Some examples are pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension (GHT), and gestational diabetes. Women with other risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney failure, were more at risk of developing serious complications that could lead to CVD.³
Stress and depression
Stress and depression are common in both male and female heart disease patients and can increase their risk of heart attack and coronary disease.⁴ However, depression is widely understood to be more common in women,⁵ meaning that it is also more common in female heart disease patients. Depression in women is a major risk factor that can lead to heart disease symptoms and events.5 Women who have heart disease are also more likely to experience depression, thereby increasing their risk of heart disease-related events further.⁵
Women make up about 80% of people with autoimmune diseases.⁶ Those diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and acquired autoimmune diseases such as HIV, significantly increase women’s risk of developing heart disease.⁷ One study showed that women with lupus aged 35-44 were 50 times more likely to have a heart attack than those without the disease.⁸
How Skiin™ can help mitigate heart disease risk factors
Though some of the traditional heart disease risk factors can be mitigated through lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, exercise, and a healthy diet, many can be more difficult to control. For many of the risk factors listed in this article, the key to mitigation is identifying them early and knowing how to treat them.
Myant Health designed Skiin—our line of biosensing undergarments—to enable everyone to track their symptoms and share them with their healthcare providers. Skiin allows women to track their steps and activity levels, which can have a significant impact on many of these risk factors, including stress,⁹ depression,¹⁰ and obesity.¹¹ Skiin also records the wearer’s ECG data, which is available to a partnered cardiologist as an adjunct to their diagnostic tools. Whenever the patient records a symptom in the Skiin Connected Life App their cardiologist will receive their time-related ECG, heart rate, and other biometric data from when the symptom occurred. This kind of information is vital and invaluable to female heart patients and their care team, as it enables them to detect trends and deviations in their heart health early on—a key factor in mitigating the deadly impact of heart disease on female patients. Also, when a woman enters menopause her risk of developing CVD goes up, so close monitoring of her ECG, heart rate, and body temperature is vital to detect early signs of heart disease.
To find out more about Skiin and how Myant Health is working to empower women on their heart health journeys visit myanthealth.com.
- Murphy, E. (2011). Estrogen Signaling and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation Research, 109(6), 687–696. https://doi.org/10.1161/circresaha.110.236687
- Roach RE, Helmerhorst FM, Lijfering WM, Stijnen T, Algra A, Dekkers OM. Combined oral contraceptives: the risk of myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Aug 27;2015(8):CD011054. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011054.pub2. PMID: 26310586; PMCID: PMC6494192.
- Täufer Cederlöf, E., Lundgren, M., Lindahl, B., & Christersson, C. (2022). Pregnancy Complications and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Later in Life: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 11(2). https://doi.org/10.1161/jaha.121.023079
- Albert PR. Why is depression more prevalent in women? J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2015 Jul;40(4):219-21. doi: 10.1503/jpn.150205. PMID: 26107348; PMCID: PMC4478054.
- Mattina GF, Van Lieshout RJ, Steiner M. Inflammation, depression and cardiovascular disease in women: the role of the immune system across critical reproductive events. Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Jan-Dec;13:1753944719851950. doi: 10.1177/1753944719851950. PMID: 31144599; PMCID: PMC6545651.
- Angum F, Khan T, Kaler J, Siddiqui L, Hussain A. The Prevalence of Autoimmune Disorders in Women: A Narrative Review. Cureus. 2020 May 13;12(5):e8094. doi: 10.7759/cureus.8094. PMID: 32542149; PMCID: PMC7292717.
- Moran, C. A., Collins, L. F., Beydoun, N., Mehta, P. K., Fatade, Y., Isiadinso, I., Lewis, T. T., Weber, B., Goldstein, J., Ofotokun, I., Quyyumi, A., Choi, M. Y., Titanji, K., & Lahiri, C. D. (2022). Cardiovascular Implications of Immune Disorders in Women. Circulation Research, 130(4), 593–610. https://doi.org/10.1161/circresaha.121.319877
- Manzi S, Meilahn EN, Rairie JE, Conte CG, Medsger TA Jr, Jansen-McWilliams L, D'Agostino RB, Kuller LH. Age-specific incidence rates of myocardial infarction and angina in women with systemic lupus erythematosus: comparison with the Framingham Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Mar 1;145(5):408-15. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a009122. PMID: 9048514.
- Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. (2022, August 3). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469?reDate=11012023
- Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111. doi: 10.4088/pcc.v06n0301. PMID: 15361924; PMCID: PMC474733.
- Physical Activity. (2016, April 12). Obesity Prevention Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/physical-activity-and-obesity/