No. 1
Cardiovascular disease is the no. 1 killer of women globally

But it is often thought to be a 'male' problem [1]

Women who smoke are three times as likely to have a heart attack

Compared to women who don't smoke [2]

Over 3000 women died from heart disease in New Zealand in 2017

That's almost 8 women a day, or about 55 each week [3]

Heart disease kills twice as many women in New Zealand

than any other single cause.[1]

Sri Claney

We need to take care of ourselves too

Sri Claney knows first-hand how important it is to take care of your own health, in order to have the physical and emotional energy to take care of those around you.

"It’s important to look after your own physical health, get enough rest and be good to yourself. There’s that saying, ‘you cannot serve from an empty vessel’."

Read Sri's story

Heart attack sparks a new attitude to life

When Chess suffered a heart attack in 2015, she struggled with denial and anger.

But now, years later she lives life with renewed vigour.

"At the time I had to deal with a lot of stuff I didn’t want to. I got rid of a lot of stuff that was unnecessary in my life, and then I just didn’t care what people thought of me after that."

Read Chess' story

Jeni McNamara

“I should have gone to the hospital, but I waited…”

Jeni didn’t think she was a candidate for a heart attack.

She’s always kept herself fit and healthy by doing regular walking, riding her bike, and attending weekly aerobics classes. So as an active 68-year-old, she was surprised when she had a heart attack.

"Don’t expect a heart attack to be dramatic, it may not overly painful, because it wasn’t like that for me, it was very sneaky."

Read Jeni's story

Heart failure at 20 years old

Following her experiences with heart disease, Tara thinks it’s important to talk to friends, family, or health professionals about how you’re feeling through your journey.

"Our mental health is as important as our physical health."

Read Tara's story
tara simonyi

Women and heart disease FAQ’s 

It’s important to remember that everyone (male or female) experiences different heart attack symptoms. The symptoms of a subsequent heart attack may be different from the first. 

Women are more likely than men to experience heart attack symptoms without chest discomfort. If they do have tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest, this discomfort may not always be severe or even the most noticeable symptom. 

Sometimes a person can have no heart attack symptoms at all. In these cases, the heart attack isn't diagnosed until it is picked up by a clinician at a later date. This is sometimes called a silent heart attack. 

Women and men share largely the same risk factors for heart disease. Smoking, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as a family history of heart problems all contribute to an increased risk of heart attack. 

However, in many cases women are more vulnerable to these risk factors than men. This is because: 

  • nicotine is metabolised faster, so smoking creates a bigger risk for women 
  • women with diabetes are at a greater risk of heart disease than men with diabetes 
  • a family history of heart disease can be a stronger predictor in women. 

Despite sharing similar risk factors, heart disease tends to occur at a later age for women. This is because the risk for women increases significantly once they reach menopause. 

Women without known risk factors: 

  • From 55 years of age 

Women with significant known heart disease risk factors: 

  • From 45 years of age 

Māori, Pacific or South Asian women: 

  • From 40 years of age 

Women with type 2 diabetes: 

  • As part of the annual diabetic review 

Women with severe mental illness: 

  • From 25 years of age. 

Once you know your risks, there's lots you can do to reduce them. 

  • Quit smoking. If you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart health 
  • Move more. Any activity helps. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. 
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat more plant foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes like chickpeas, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and less processed foods. 
  • Take your heart pills. If you’re already on medication for your heart, make sure you take it according to the instructions. 
  • Manage conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Spend five minutes learning about your risks and what you can do about them. 

What are my risk factors?