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Underdiagnosis and undertreatment of women with heart disease

This February is REDFEB, heart awareness month. In addition to encouraging people to wear red and donate, Heart Research Australia is raising awareness about the underdiagnosis and undertreatment of women with heart disease.

Heart disease is not just a man’s disease. Globally, it is the number one killer of women, and we’ve found over recent years that women are doing worse after their heart attacks, they’re more likely to have another heart attack, and more likely to die or have heart failure than men within the five years following their heart attack.

Time is critical and a huge issue with women is the delay to treatment. Women go to hospital later after symptoms start, which reduces the window of opportunity for effective treatment and increases the risk of complications and damage to their heart. Women also tend to develop symptoms of heart disease at a much later stage of the illness than men and their symptoms are often vaguer. Some feel extremely tired or short of breath. Other atypical symptoms include nausea and abdominal, neck, and shoulder pain.

It is important for women to know that early menopause, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and complications during pregnancy – such as pre-eclampsia, hypertension, and gestational diabetes – are all important risk factors for women. So, if you are a woman over 45* please have a heart health check with your GP and discuss your obstetric history with them if you have had children. This enables proactive prevention to be taken to reduce risk. (*Over 35 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).

Heart Research Australia aims to reduce the devastating impact heart disease has on families and the community by supporting world-class and emerging researchers to conduct ground-breaking research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. For more information or to donate, please visit

On behalf of the thousands of Australians impacted by heart disease every year, thank you for your support.

Nicci Dent

CEO, Heart Research Australia


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