Heart Health (Cardiovascular Disease)

There are three main types of cardiovascular disease (CVD): stroke, coronary heart disease and heart failure. Many people think that cardiovascular disease is more likely to be associated with men; however, one type of CVD, coronary heart disease, causes more deaths in women than men in Australia. CVD can occur at any age. However, for most women, the risk of developing CVD increases significantly around the menopause.

Heart Attack

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of illness and death for Australian women. There is now increasing recognition that aspects of its prevention, treatment and management of heart disease are unique to women. New research shows that there are differences between the male and female heart. The research found that women have greater blood flow to their heart muscle and greater space between their heart muscle cells. The findings may explain the differences in how heart disease presents in men and women.

Women don’t always feel pain in the centre of the chest when having a heart attack. Rather than the classic chest pain men often feel, women may feel breathless, and have nausea, back pain, tightness or discomfort in the arms and a general feeling of being unwell.

If you experience one or a combination of these symptoms and they progressively get worse for at least 10 minutes it is important to tell someone how you are feeling. If no one is around, call 000 without delay.  Women often wait too long to seek help because they think they are not at risk of heart attack.

More women die from heart attacks in Australia than men and often the reason is because they don’t seek help fast enough.


When the blood supply to the brain is interrupted this may result in a stroke. The following symptoms may be the signs of a stroke:

  • blurred vision
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • trouble speaking or understanding
  • loss of consciousness

The FAST test developed by the Stroke Foundation is a useful tool:

Using the F.A.S.T. test involves asking these simple questions:
Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms Can they lift both arms?
Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.

For more information or supports, go to:

The Heart Foundation

Jean Hailes 

Heart Research Australia

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 

Stroke Foundation