Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women and heart attack is the leading cause of hospitalization. The characteristics of this disease in women may differ from those known in men; the age of onset, presence of risk factors, probability of aggressive diagnosis and treatment vary in men and women.
For example, heart disease develops 7 to 10 years later in women than in men (potentially because of a protective effect of estrogen). Heart attack (myocardial infarction, MI) is less frequent in young women than in men, but young women with heart attack are at greater risk of dying within 28 days of the attack. Common risk factors for heart disease have similar predicting value both for men and women; however, men more frequently have smoking as risk a factor, whereas women more frequently have hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and angina. Although women typically smoke less, the relative risk for MI of women who smoke was 1.5 to 2 times greater than of men who smoked, especially in younger age (< 55 years). Higher prevalence of diabetes contributes to higher mortality rates of MI among women.