A woman's heart is physiologically different from a man's. It's smaller, both in overall size and in the carrying capacity of its arteries and lesser blood vessels. It beats faster, but it may take fractionally longer to relax between beats. And for much of a woman's life, it is swathed in the powerfully influential hormone estrogen.
How much each of these factors influences the development of heart disease in women isn't fully known. Certainly, women are susceptible to all of the basic risk factors that affect male cardiovascular health, from genetics and exacerbating diseases such as diabetes to smoking, heavy alcohol use, a poor diet and inadequate exercise.
“Women's health behaviors can be as bad or worse than a man's,” said Dr. Lori Daniels, a practicing cardiologist at UCSD Medical Center.