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Women’s hearts are more likely to develop clots than men’s. This risk increases in women who use birth control and smoke. Women have a 59-per- cent risk of stroke related to high blood pressure, compared with men at 39 percent, said Karabulut.

Women’s heart veins are more resilient against heart disease. Compared to men, there is a 10-year difference in the development of cardiovascular diseases. However, this difference disappears after menopause. Coronary artery disease also afflicts men earlier than women, and sudden cardiac death (death within an hour of the onset of symptoms) is more common in men. But women’s hearts are less durable after a heart attack. Women have a higher risk of death after a heart attack. 

Diagnostic Tests and Treatments

Symptoms of heart disease do not present as easily in women, who have atypical complaints. While chest pain is more prominent in men, women can often have short- ness of breath, weakness, fatigue and bloating as promi- nent symptoms. Women also have a higher chance of diastolic dysfunction, which means their hearts become stiff and do not relax between beats. Men are more likely to suffer systolic dysfunction, which means their hearts become weak and floppy and have trouble pumping blood. Since diastolic dysfunction is harder to detect, women’s heart problems may be underdiagnosed.

It’s important to note women are susceptible to potentially lethal arrhythmias from taking medication to stabilize rhythm that is effective for men. 

In some women, arterial plaque builds up as an evenly spread layer along artery walls. This is not treatable with procedures such as angioplasty and stenting that flatten the bulky, irregular plaque in some men’s arteries. For some women, drug treatment is a better option than angioplasty or stenting.

Larger hearts are easier to work with, so most women receive heart transplants from men. But female hearts cannot be used for heart transplants in men. 

Ancient thinkers waxed poetic over how men’s and women’s hearts differ, but there are actual anatomical differences that impact diagnoses and treatments of the heart. Here are some ways men’s and women’s hearts differ:

Size and Structure

Women’s hearts are smaller and, at 118 grams, weigh 60 grams less than men’s. Their veins are 1 millimeter thinner than men’s, making them more sensitive and liable to shrivel. The finer veins in a female heart make it work harder. Valve structure is also comparatively looser, said Dr. Ahmet Karabulut, cardiology specialist at Acidadem University Atakent Hospital in Istanbul. Women’s arteries have tiny openings, on average1.5 millimeters, compared to men’s hearts 2.5 millimeters.

Female and male hearts grow differently over time, according to research published in the journal Radiology in October 2015. Studying nearly 3,000 adult hearts (ages 45-84) for 10 years, researchers focused on the left ventricle heart chamber that pumps oxygenated blood out of the heart into the body. As people age, the left ventricle’s capacity to pump blood declines, but this decline happens differently in men and women. In men, the heart muscle around the chamber grows larger and thicker with age, but a woman’s muscle maintains its size or gets smaller, decreasing the heart’s filling capacity. This was the first study to use long-term



Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover

MRI scans to observe left ventricle structure and function over time.

Function and Performance

Although the female heart is smaller, it beats faster than a man’s, even during sleep, says Dr. Marrianne Legato of Columbia University. A woman’s daily average heart rate is 78-82 beats per minute, compared to men’s 70-72 beats per minute. It takes a woman’s heart longer to return to baseline after a beat.

Conditions and Diseases

For unknown reasons, women’s hearts are more sensitive to drug effects, Karabulut said. The female heart’s natural rapid heart rate and looser valve structure can cause palpitation and shortness of breath more frequently than in men, as well as more valve disorders, said Karabulut. According to the National Institute of Health, these “floppy” valves are more prone to mitral valve prolapse and can progress to the point where the valve between the upper and lower left chambers no longer closes properly. This requires surgery to repair or replace.