More Women Than Men Die Due To Heart Failure

More Women Than Men Die Due To Heart Failure

by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on Jul 16 2018 3:19 PM
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  • Heart failure related deaths and hospitalizations due to heart failure have increased in women compared to men although overall heart failure rates have declined
  • Heart disease is the leading killer disease in women worldwide accounting for more deaths than all cancers combined
  • There is need for more research to create awareness and educate the general population as well as health professionals about the real risk of heart disease and related deaths in women
Heart failure causes more deaths and accounts for more hospitalizations in women than in men, finds a recent study conducted by University of Ottawa Heart Institute which appears in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association).


Reason for the Study

An overall decrease in incidence of heart failure has been observed. However, data on sex differences in heart disease outcome between men and women remains poor.
The aim of the current study was to understand the sex differences in the overall outcome in patients with heart failure.

"This is the first of a series of studies to examine the sex differences in heart failure incidence, outcomes, care delivery and access in Ontario," says Dr. Louise Sun, University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa, Ontario.


Details of the Study

  • The study team analyzed data from over 90,000 patients who were diagnosed with heart failure in Ontario over a 5 year period (2009 to 2014).
  • 47 percent of the total number of cases were female and were more likely to be elderly and weak, and were found to hail from lower income group and suffer from multiple underlying chronic conditions
  • The number of new heart failure cases was found to be the least in 2011 and 2012, and then began to rise the following year
  • After diagnosis, during the first year of follow-up, 16.8 percent (7156) women died compared to 14.9 percent (7138) men
  • During the study period, hospitalization rates in women far exceeded rates for men; 98 women per 1000 were hospitalized in 2013 compared with 91 per 1000 men
Thus the findings of the study suggest that the rates of hospitalization as well as deaths due to heart failure is higher in women when compared to men.

"We found that mortality from heart failure remains high, especially in women; that hospital admissions for heart failure decreased in men but increased in women; and that women and men had different associated comorbidities.," write the authors. "Further studies should focus on sex differences in health-seeking behaviour, medical therapy and response to therapy to improve outcomes in women."


Heart Disease in Women - Myth Busting Facts

  • Heart disease has emerged as the chief cause of death for women globally and in the United States, accounting for about 1 in 4 deaths among females in the US annually
  • Approximately seven times more female deaths occur due to heart disease when compared to breast cancer.
  • Women experiencing a heart attack are more likely to misread the symptoms and delay going to the doctor. In women, symptoms may be atypical such as breathlessness, shortness of breath, pain in the neck and jaw, throat pain, upper abdominal or back pain. Warning signs in men are more typical like crushing central chest pain
  • In women, coronary artery disease (CAD) affects smaller vessels that feed the heart, and an angiogram, a procedure that is commonly done to identify blocks in the coronary arteries, may miss the findings in these smaller vessels
  • In hospital, women’s symptoms are likely to be overlooked by healthcare professionals as caused by something else. They may therefore fail to be referred for in-hospital interventions such as angioplasty (removal of a blockage in a heart artery) than men, resulting in a higher risk of death
  • Also the mortality rates in women with CAD tends to be higher during heart surgery due to the smaller hearts and arteries
  • Women generally suffer from heart disease and complications at a later age and therefore have traditionally received less attention than men even by the medical fraternity and in research projects
  • Pregnant women and women in reproductive age had been excluded from taking part in research in the United States until the 1990s which may have led to the lack of information and awareness even among health professionals who regard heart disease and related complications as a male phenomenon
  • Risk factors in women also have a different bearing on heart disease in women. For example, women with diabetes have 44 percent higher risk of heart disease than men. Additionally gestational diabetes or diabetes that develops during pregnancy is associated with greater risk of heart disease than women who did not have gestational diabetes
  • Following a heart related event, women are expected to start ‘functioning’ again earlier, which burdens and stresses them even more and more time need to be given to recover and recoup
In conclusion, there should be more research projects that focus on heart disease in women, developing treatments suited to women, creating awareness about symptoms and signs of heart disease in women and educating women about risk factors and their prevention in order to improve long-term outcomes.

  1. Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet - (
  2. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – At-a-Glance - (
  3. Why are women at higher risk than men for heart disease? - (