Heart Disease in Women

Heart Disease in Women

Risk Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment

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Duke cardiologists who specialize in women’s heart health can provide you personalized cardiovascular assessments and care. Our team focuses on the unique ways heart disease can affect women. Our experts’ advice and guidance help you manage your heart health and reduce your heart disease risk.

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Dedicated to Caring for Women's Hearts

Heart disease, the leading killer of women, can affect women differently than men. 

  • Coronary microvascular disease occurs in small blood vessels of the heart and is more common in women. 
  • Often, the first sign of cardiovascular disease in women is a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure
  • It's also common for women to experience lesser-known symptoms of heart disease. For example, you may feel more shortness of breath, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, left-arm or neck pain in addition to chest pain or pressure. 
  • Pregnancy, menopause, and stress can also affect women's hearts and require personalized care from knowledgeable experts.

We are aware of these differences and can choose the most appropriate tests to evaluate your condition. Whether you have been diagnosed with heart disease or are concerned about your risk and want to take steps now, we can help you manage your heart health and prevent future events.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Risk Evaluation

Our comprehensive risk evaluation includes a thorough personal, family, and OB-GYN history, as well as an assessment of your dietary intake, exercise habits, and social history. This in-depth evaluation identifies the factors that increase your risk for heart disease and is used to develop your personalized recommendations and treatment plan.

Duke cardiologists look for risk factors that may exclusively or more commonly affect women. These can include: 

  • Pregnancy-related complications
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Rheumatologic and immunologic disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Emotional, physical, and psychosocial factors

Psychosocial Stress Evaluation

We want to understand any social, mental, or emotional factors that may influence your heart health -- including issues such as balancing work, home, and family -- that may increase your stress and affect your heart health.


We monitor your height, weight, BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, and waist circumference. Too much abdominal fat indicates a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and other heart disease risk factors.

Lab Tests

Blood tests measure your cholesterol profile, which includes triglycerides and other fats in your blood that can affect your heart. Glucose levels and hemoglobin A1c may be checked for diabetes or pre-diabetes. Thyroid function and other tests look for associated endocrine abnormalities. Special testing for inflammation markers such as C-reactive protein may also be part of a cardiovascular evaluation.

Additional Tests

Your personalized assessment will help us determine any additional cardiac testing you may need, such as an echocardiogram, Holter heart monitor, cardiac CT scan, or noninvasive stress test. These tests allow us to take a closer look at the structure and/or rhythm of your heart.

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Lifestyle Modification

We provide counseling on nutrition, weight management, and exercise to help you achieve a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Behavioral Therapy

Because stress is a significant risk factor for heart disease, we recommend ways to help you reduce your stress. They may include yoga, meditation, stress-reduction techniques, and/or a meeting with a behavioral therapist or psychologist.


Depending on your needs, you may be prescribed medication to manage your heart disease risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Best Heart Hospital in NC
When it comes to your heart care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital's nationally ranked cardiology and heart surgery program is ranked the best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Why Choose Duke

Dedicated Women’s Heart Specialists
We provide gender-specific evaluations and treatments in accordance with the American Heart Association guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women.

Experts in Heart Disease During Pregnancy and Beyond
We provide expert heart care to pregnant women with pre-existing heart conditions, as well as women who develop heart failure during pregnancy. Women who experience complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, or pre-eclampsia, are more likely to develop heart disease later in life. After menopause, women are more prone to stress-induced heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). We help you prevent and treat heart disease at every stage of your life.

Personalized Treatment Options
We tailor your treatments to your needs. For example, women may need lower doses of medications than men to have the same benefit and avoid harmful side effects. Women may also have a more profound response to cardiac resynchronization therapy for advanced heart failure when compared to men.

Ongoing Sex-Specific Research
We conduct sex-specific research to promote ongoing advances in women’s heart care. We are also researching genetic markers to better understand why differences exist between men and women, and to identify which women may be at greatest risk for developing heart disease. Our efforts may help us personalize your care.

Reviewed: 08/30/2018