Skip to main content

Improving Cardiovascular Health This International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

Even as we mark a significant day for women around the world, we must be reminded that cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death among women – responsible for around a third of all deaths among women each year. It’s more deadly for women than all forms of cancer put together.

Yet less than half, or around 44 percent of women, are aware that cardiovascular disease is their biggest health threat.

“Unfortunately, cardiovascular mortality in women is - in contrast to cancer - not on a decline but has stagnated or increased and many women live with chronic, non-curable cardiovascular diseases,” says Dr. Hugo Katus, former Chair of the European Society of Cardiology Advocacy Committee. “More awareness for cardiovascular diseases is urgently needed not only in public or by health care professionals but most importantly also by women of all ages.”1

Mitigating Risk

The first step to more heart-healthy women’s health is this awareness, beginning with risk factors.

According to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), roughly 90 percent of women in the US, to use just one example, have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular events. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, or a family history of heart disease.

The World Heart Federation also notes that some of these risk factors affect women more than men. For example, women who smoke are more likely to experience a heart attack than men who smoke.

The good news is that people can take action on all of these risk factors except for one – being family history. But even on family history, women can still inform their doctors of any family members who had heart attacks before they turned 60.

For all other risk factors, our corporate blog has plenty of advice on how to live a more heart-healthy lifestyle, from more hugs, to moderate exercise, to the most heart-healthy foods.

Different life experiences that women have can also have an effect on these risk factors, such as pregnancy or menopause. Pregnancy complications in particular can affect overall blood pressure. So it’s important to speak with your doctor if these experiences have affected any of your risk factors. Many women aren’t necessarily aware they should do this, but certain experiences that men don’t have can affect cardiovascular risk factors.

Closing the Clinical Gap

However, improving heart health for women will take more than individual action. It will also take more robust clinical evidence through more representative studies, yielding properly powered data.

However, some clinical studies – particularly in the area of heart failure – have less than a 30 percent enrolment rate for women. This means that the cardiology field in many instances is still trying to work out whether certain treatment options work just as well for women as they do for men.

Dr. Barbara Casadei, Past-President of the European Society of Cardiology, said recently: “The ESC calls for reducing the gap in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of CVD between men and women. More research, greater participation of women in clinical trials and more policy attention to CVD in women are necessary if we aim to achieve gender equality”.2

This is why BIOTRONIK is supporting two landmark clinical studies that work to a 50-50 percent enrolment between women and men, BIOWOMEN and BIO-LIBRA. Through studies like this one, BIOTRONIK hopes to help to be able to answer once and for all, whether certain treatments are equally effective for women and men – and whether they should be administered the same way.

Improving heart health for women will take the entire medical community. This of course includes patients being more mindful about their risk factors. But it also requires physicians and industry to be mindful of how they can help remove obstacles, from being mindful about different risk factors to ensuring better representation in clinical studies. Advancing heart health for women – and for all people in general – demands nothing less.



1. Dr. Hugo Katus, former Chair of the European Society of Cardiology Advocacy Committee, as quoted in Cardiovascular Disease in Women (

2. Dr. Barbara Casadei, Past-President of the European Society of Cardiology, as quoted in Cardiovascular Disease in Women (