Studies have shown that women are more likely than men to have coronary microvascular disease (MVD). Women at high risk for the disease often have multiple risk factors for atherosclerosis. (For a detailed list of these risk factors, go to "What Causes Coronary Microvascular Disease?")
Women may be at risk for coronary MVD if they have lower than normal levels of estrogen at any point in their adult lives. (This refers to the estrogen that the ovaries produce, not the estrogen used in hormone therapy.)
Low estrogen levels before menopause can raise younger women's risk for coronary MVD. One cause of low estrogen levels in younger women is mental stress. Another cause is a problem with the function of the ovaries.
Women who have high blood pressure before menopause, especially high systolic blood pressure, are at increased risk for coronary MVD. (Systolic blood pressure is the top or first number of a blood pressure measurement.)
After menopause, women tend to have more of the traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis, which also puts them at higher risk for coronary MVD.
Women who have heart disease are more likely to have a worse outcome, such as a heart attack, if they also have anemia. Anemia is thought to slow the growth of cells needed to repair damaged blood vessels.
Celebrating American Heart Month: NIH Advancing Heart Research02/07/2014
More than 100 members of the NIH community gathered at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, to raise awareness about women and heart disease. The crowd formed a giant human heart in honor of National Wear Red Day, which takes place each year on the first Friday of February. Speakers at the event included Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH; Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, director of the NHLBI; Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Dr. Janine Clayton, director of the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health; and Dr. John Gallin, director of the NIH Clinical Center. For more information about heart disease, visit the NHLBI web site. If you share this video on Twitter, please use #NationalWearRedDay.