• Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. While men are more vulnerable to developing heart disease at a younger age, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) points out that by age 65 women and men have an equal risk of heart disease.

    Women and Heart Disease

    According to the CDC, heart disease accounts for as many deaths among women than men, and is the third-leading cause of death among women aged 25 to 44 years.

    Risk Factors

    Risk factors for developing heart disease, such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and genetic makeup, apply to both genders. One factor that differs between men and women is the distribution of body fat.

    Distribution of Fat

    Men tend to store excessive fat tissue around the waist (apple shape), while women collect extra weight around the hips and below the skin (pear shape). A woman's fat distribution changes after reaching Menopause. Several studies have shown that apple-shaped people have a higher risk of developing heart disease than people with a pear body shape.

    Body Shape and Heart Disease

    A 2010 University of Oxford study discovered that abdominal fat causes damage by releasing fatty acids, which can clog arteries. Fat stored in the hips, on the other hand, traps these fatty acids. Moreover, abdominal fat releases pro-inflammatory molecules, thereby contributing to heart disease.


    Different body shapes may explain the discrepancy in occurrences of heart disease among middle-aged men and women. However, the Oxford study also points out that further investigation is needed and that low body fat in itself provides the best protection from heart disease.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heart Disease is the Number One Cause of Death

    : Being University of Oxford: Being Pear Shaped Protects Against Heart Disease

    More Information:

    American Heart Association: Risk Factors and Coronary Heart Disease

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