More than three-quarters of American women will get heart disease in their lifetime, but most of them aren't aware of the risk they face and even their doctors are only just beginning to realize there are critical differences between men's and women's heart health.
Heart disease, long perceived as primarily a male problem, is the No. 1 cause of death among women in the United States, resulting in more female deaths every year than all types of cancer combined. More women than men die of heart disease.
Part of the reason heart disease is so widespread among women is a simple matter of age -- women live longer than men. But another factor is a notable lack of research and understanding among doctors of how the disease shows up in women, and how it should be treated.
When women get heart disease, they are more likely than men to suffer complications from heart attacks and from treatments such as medication or surgery. They often have symptoms different from the textbook examples doctors learned to recognize based on decades of studies involving mostly men.