Happy Mother's Day


Each year on Mother’s day we have the chance to celebrate our mothers and mother figures.

It may be a chance to let them know how much they mean to you, and how much you appreciate them.

For those whose mothers are no longer with us it can be a day to remember them and reflect on their life.

Heart disease in women

It is commonly believed that heart disease mainly affects men, however cardiovascular disease will affect one in three Australian women

  • It is the leading cause of death for women in Australia.
  • Over 4,000 women died of a heart attack in Australia in 2013 – that’s one woman every 2 hours or 24 lives each day
  • Heart disease kills more than three times as many women as breast cancer
  • More than 48,000 women are hospitalised with heart disease each year


Women’s experience of heart disease differs from men

  • Women’s symptoms are often milder, they can arise later in the illness and they can be unusual
  • Because heart disease in women often goes undetected, the damage caused can be more advanced and outcomes can be poorer than for men
  • Some tests used to diagnose heart disease are also less accurate in women than they are in men
  • After reaching menopause women’s risk of heart disease increases substantially. This is believed to be because the low levels of the hormone oestrogen may provide less protection from heart disease
  • Oral contraceptives can increase the risk of heart disease in women who smoke
  • Hormone replacement therapy, which it is now understood does not reduce the risk of heart disease in women who already suffer from it, and may also raise the risk of heart attacks and blood clots


While men often experience central chest pain when having a heart attack, women commonly interpret this pain as indigestion simply because they do not expect a heart attack. When experiencing a heart attack women are also more likely to feel:

  • Pain in the jaw, back or neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting and cold sweats
  • Overwhelming weakness or fatigue
  • Anxiety, lethargy and loss of appetite


So you can see that the work of the Heart Research Institute is as relevant to women as it is to men. We also do research that relates specifically to women.

Our Vascular Immunology Group’s work aims to understand the causes and progression of pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy and examine the links between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in women, especially around the time of pregnancy.

They investigates the causes of pre-eclampsia through studying placentas and placental cells in the laboratory.  Our researchers have been able to identify factors coming from
the placenta that lead to damage in the mothers’ blood vessels and how this interaction can affect high cholesterol and other substances known to increase the risk of blood vessel and heart disease.

There have also been several major discoveries about the relationship between high blood pressure in pregnancy and risks of heart disease and blood pressure in later life. This will influence the type of advice that is given to women after their pregnancy.

A future free of heart disease

That’s our aim. We’re proud the work we do will help save lives including mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and wives.

Read more about women and heart disease


Related news

HRI awarded Best Scientific Presentation Award at SOMANZ

HRI's Dr Katrina Chau has been awarded Best Scientific Presentation at the 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting held by the Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand (SOMANZ) in conjunction with the Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS). 

Read more

How to grow a human

Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding stages of life for a woman. Decisions about health and nutrition at this point can significantly affect the lifelong health of both the mother and their baby. In the end, the goal of good pregnancy nutrition is to provide adequate nutrients that will promote optimum health in both.
Read more

In support of ‘Making the Invisible Visible’

This June, the Heart Research Institute stands in support of the Heart Foundation’s ‘Making the Invisible Visible’ campaign, and shines the spotlight on heart disease in women.
Read more