Health Topics

Heart Failure & Women

Heart failure in Women

Heart failure affects about 2.7 million women in the United States. Despite the fact that women account for more than 50 percent of all hospital admissions for heart failure, they represent only 25 percent of participants in heart failure trials. Consequently, advances in heart failure therapies apply to most men and prospective sex-specific studies need to be performed to improve the health care in women.

Heart Failure: Men Vs Women

Differences of women with heart failure as compared to men with heart failure

  • Women tend to develop congestive heart failure at an older age than men.
  • Women tend to develop heart failure with a more normal ejection fraction than men (diastolic heart failure). Ejection fraction is the measurement of how much blood is being pumped out of the left ventricle of the heart. Heart failure can occur due to a weakened heart muscle (systolic heart failure) or may be related to a stiff, inflexible heart muscle (diastolic heart failure). In some cases the ejection fraction can be normal, but due to the increased pressures inside the heart and lungs, the patient can have heart failure.
  • The causes of heart failure in women or men are often linked to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular disease, and diabetes mellitus with hypertension being more common in women and coronary artery disease more common in men.
  • Although rare, peripartum cardiomyopathy is a cause of heart failure unique to women. Peripartum cardiomyopathy is the development of heart failure within the last month of pregnancy, or within five months after delivery. Peripartum cardiomyopathy occurs without an identifiable cause.
  • Depression is frequently associated with heart failure and is more common in women than men.
  • Although the signs and symptoms of heart failure are the same among men and women, women tend to have more symptoms such as shortness of breath and more difficulty exercising than men. They also have swelling around their ankles more frequently than men.
  • In general, women survive longer than men with heart failure.

For more information, visit Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute.