Harvard Heart Letter

The heart attack gender gap

Heart attacks strike men at younger ages than women. But survival rates are worse in women. Why?

heart attack gender gap
Compared with men, women are less likely to recognize and act upon the symptoms of a heart attack.
Image: zaganDesign/Thinkstock

Imagine someone in the throes of a heart attack. If you picture a man clutching his chest in agony, that's understandable. At younger ages, men face a greater risk of heart disease than women. On average, a first heart attack—the most common manifestation of this prevalent disease—strikes men at age 65. For women, the average age of a first heart attack is 72.

However, heart disease is responsible for one in every three deaths for both sexes and remains the leading cause of death in women as well as men. In fact, since 1984, more women have died of heart disease than men each year, although that is partly because women generally live longer than men.

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