• Know the Facts

    Women and heart disease

    • More women than men die of heart disease every year: one death every minute.

    • Heart disease and stroke account for 33% of all female deaths in Mississippi.

    • Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the No. 1 cause of death in American women, claiming over 400,000 lives each year, or nearly one death each minute. CVD kills more women than the next three causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.

    • Only 43% of black women and 44% of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk, compared to 60% of white women.

    • Most women do not realize that their symptoms for angina and myocardial infarction (heart attack) are different than in men.

    • Most women would call 911 for a man with heart attack symptoms, but would put off calling for themselves.

    • Women may be less likely to report chest pain during a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and more likely to report other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal or mid-back pain, indigestion, or “drawing feeling” in their necks.Â

    • 35% of women who have had a myocardial infarction (heart attack) will die within 1 year, compared with 25% of men.

    • Women have MI’s at older ages than men and are more likely to die from them within a few weeks.

    • Women suffer more from atypical symptoms of unstable angina than men, including shortness of breath, nausea, difficulty breathing, and loss of appetite, back pain and weakness.

    • Women experience delays in both arriving at the hospital after having heart attack symptoms and receiving timely treatment for those symptoms.

    • Women tend to develop CVD later in life than men, and their outcomes are often worse.

    • Women smokers die of a heart attack caused by smoking earlier than men.

    • Women who smoke are nearly twice as likely to die of sudden cardiac death, compared to women who have never smoked.

    • Women with congestive heart failure are more likely to also have diabetes and hypertension than men

    • Women have worse in-hospital and long-term outcomes than men after myocardial infarction (heart attack).

    • Death rates after coronary artery bypass grafts are higher for women.

    Women's Health Research Center faculty research: Dr. Merry Lindsey, PhD, studies heart disease in men and women.

    Women and cardiovascular disease

    • Obesity is one of the leading causes of death from cardiovascular disease in women and men.
    • Nearly 70% of women in Mississippi are overweight or obese.
    • The prevalence of obesity is higher in women than in men, and African-American and Mexican-American women have a higher prevalence of obesity than Caucasian women.
    • Overweight or obesity is a major cause of diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension).
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects 74% of women ages 65-74.
    • African-American and Mexican-American women have a higher prevalence of CVD risk factors than Caucasian women.
    • After age 55 (after menopause), more than half of all the deaths in women are caused by cardiovascular disease.
    • The death rate for heart disease and stroke is higher for African-American women than for white women.
    • Women who gain weight experience greater increases in blood pressure than men.

    Women's Health Research Center faculty research: Dr. Sean Didion, PhD, studies why more women die from cardiovascular disease than men. Michael Ryan, PhD, studies why more women develop lupus than do men. Dr. Jane Reckelhoff, PhD, and Marion Wofford, PhD, PM, study hypertension in women.

    Women should know "know their numbers"

    • Women with low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease then men.
    • A women’s total cholesterol is higher than men’s cholesterol beginning at age 45.
    • As women go through menopause, their cholesterol profiles change and become more prone to vascular disease.
    • High triglycerides may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease for women more than men.

    Women and stroke

    • Each year, approximately 40,000 more women than men suffer from a stroke.
    • More women than men have atrial fibrillation (irregular rapid heart beat), a common cause of stroke.
    • Diabetes promotes stroke risk more in women than in men.
    • In Mississippi, nearly 13 women die from heart disease or stroke every day.

    Women and mental health

    • Depression may increase the risk of heart disease in women.
    • Women who have had heart attacks suffer more severe and long-term depression than men.
    • Depression may increase mortality after heart attack in women.
    • 40% of women who had a cardiac arrest experienced stress such as a divorce or depression before hand, compared with only 16% of men.

    Women and diabetes

    • Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death for women in the United States.
    • The prevalence of diabetes is 2 to 4 times higher among African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian Pacific Islander women than in Caucasian women.
    • In women, the risk of developing diabetes if one is obese is greater than in men.
    • Women are at increased risk for diabetes if they are:
      • age 45 or older;
      • have a family history of the disease;
      • are more than 20% overweight;
      • are in a high risk ethnic group;
      • have a history of diabetes during pregnancy or have delivered a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.;
      • have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are above normal, but not yet in the diabetic range.
    • Five to 10% of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy) will develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, and 20-50% will develop the disease in the next five to 10 years.
    • Among diabetics who have suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack), women have lower survival rates than men.
    • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), often called diabetic coma, is a condition caused by lack of insulin due to poorly controlled diabetes and thus high blood glucose levels and ketones in the blood. The risk of DKA, often called diabetic coma, is 50% higher among women than men.
    • Women diabetics are more likely to suffer from blindness than men.

    Women's Health Research Center faculty research: Dr. Christine Maric, PhD, studies why diabetic women are more susceptible to cardiovascular and kidney disease than diabetic men.  


    • The risk of preeclampsia, new onset hypertension during pregnancy) in women in Mississippi is approximately 10% - one of the highest in the United States.
    • This risk of developing preeclampsia is highest during your first pregnancy, if you are younger than 20 or older than 40, and if you are obese.
    • Higher pre-pregnancy body weight is associated with increased risk for preeclampsia (pregnancy hypertension), diabetes during pregnancy, prolonged labor and caesarean delivery.
    • Women who develop gestational diabetes (new onset diabetes during pregnancy) have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia as the pregnancy progresses.
    • Having preeclampsia may increase your risk of future cardiovascular disease.

    Women's Health Research Center faculty research: Dr. Babbette LaMarca, PhD, Dr. James Martin, PhD, and Dr. Joey Granger, PhD, conduct research to find out what causes hypertension in women with preeclampsia. Dr. Barbara Alexander, PhD, studies how high-risk pregnancy, including hypertension during pregnancy, predisposes children to cardiovascular disease later in life.

    Women and cancer

    • While the incidence of cancer is similar, more women die from cancer in Mississippi than other states.
    • Obesity promotes breast cancer, especially after menopause in women.
    • In Mississippi, African-American women often have more advanced stages of cancer at diagnosis than do Caucasian women.

    Women's Health Research Center faculty research: Dr. Lucio Miele, PhD, studies new treatments for breast cancer. Dr. Sharla Gayle Patterson is studying how exercise can protect against the spread of breast cancer.