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Heart Rate and Women

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Women have increased heart rates when compared to men, and this is due to smaller heart sizes. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Yash Kathuria

Published At June 14, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 27, 2024

Introduction

Women have a higher heart rate than men. The changes in female sex hormones during pregnancy and menopause lead to changes in heart function. Cardiac arrhythmias are more reported in men than women. Also, these arrhythmias show different symptoms in men and women. In the post-menopausal period, men and women have similar heart health due to the absence or reduced level of estrogen.

What Is the Role of Biological Gender in Cardiac Functioning?

Biological sex has a major role in normal heart physiology and the heart's response to cardiac disease. Females have a better cardiac function and rate of survival than males; the reason is sex hormones that contribute to sex-based differences in cardiac function and disease recovery. The estrogen hormone associated with female reproductive organs has a cardioprotective function, and testosterone is detrimental to cardiac functioning. Having better heart function but losing progressively once menopause is attained.

What Are Variations in Heart Functioning in Men and Women?

  • In males and females, there is no significant difference in heart size until puberty. After puberty, there is a 15 to 30 % increase in heart mass in males proportionate to body size. The smaller female heart pumps less blood and needs to beat faster to give larger cardiac output.

  • The normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. The average heart rate of adult women is 78 to 82 beats per minute. Females have a slightly higher heart rate than adult males, which is 70 to 72 beats per minute. The factors responsible for variation in heart rate are hormones, exercise, and lifestyle.

  • The contractility of the female heart is 10 to 14 % larger than the male heart.

  • The female blood pressure is lower than the male, and the female myocardium is rich in cardiomyocytes than the male myocardium.

  • But a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for a long in a resting position is dangerous and indicates a health condition. Similarly, a heart rate below 60 beats per minute is also problematic. Athletes and more active people have a lower heart rate.

What Is the Prevalence of Heart Disease in Women?

  • Heart diseases are reported earlier in men, and women may experience the same 10 years later. Women in the premenopausal period have a better prognosis than men in heart diseases like stenosis and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The survival rate for congestive heart failure is higher in women compared to men.

  • The cardiac function is maintained in women and men, and there will be chamber dilation wall thinning and poor heart contractility.

  • But there are conditions where women show poor prognoses. In dilated cardiomyopathy and alcohol-induced cardiac disease, women show poor prognoses.

  • The symptoms of heart attack differ in women when compared to men.

  • Men usually report crushing chest pain, and women used to report pain under the breast bone, abdominal pain, indigestion, fatigue, and breathing difficulty.

What Is The Role of Sex Hormones in Heart Functions?

Estrogen:

  • Estrogen acts on two estrogen receptors called ERα and ERβ and is expressed by different genes.

  • Estrogen receptor alpha is expressed in both males and females, and estrogen receptor beta is expressed at a higher rate in men's hearts. Estrogen is responsible for the cardioprotective function, and men and women in the postmenopausal phase have lower levels of estrogen.

Testosterone:

  • The hormone testosterone is produced by both men and women. Men have 10 times higher levels of circulating testosterone than women.

  • The physiological effects of testosterone are less studied and suggest that testosterone and estrogen have opposite effects on heart function. Post-menopausal women produce more testosterone and are likely to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Hormonal Variations in Pregnancy:

  • Pregnant women have a higher average heart rate. The heart rate is increased to pump more blood to the uterus. The pumping of blood increased by 30 to 50 percent, with an average heart rate of 90 beats per minute.

  • Commonly minor heart arrhythmias and premature atrial contractions are experienced during pregnancy. These arrhythmias may go away without any treatment.

Hormonal Variations in Menstrual Cycle:

  • In the menstrual cycle, the hormonal variations can affect the heart rate.

  • During ovulation and the week after, the heart rate is increased and decreases during menstruation and the week after.

Hormone Replacement Therapy in Heart Disease:

Hormone replacement therapy is done to improve the functioning of the heart and to reduce cardiac emergencies. The heart palpitations and hot pleasures usually associated with menopause can be controlled.

What Are the Heart Conditions More Likely to Affect Women?

  • Atrial Tachycardia - A fast heartbeat or arrhythmia. The heart rate increases to more than 100 beats per minute.

  • Long Q-T Syndrome - It is a disorder associated with heart signaling, also called heart conduction disorder. This results in fast and chaotic heartbeats.

  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome - A condition where the heart rate increases suddenly after getting up quickly from sitting or lying.

  • Pulseless Electrical Activity (PEA) Arrest - It is a type of cardiac arrest while the patient is having normal electrical activity of the heart.

  • Sick Sinus Syndrome - A clinical condition where the right atrium of the heart is damaged and not producing normal heartbeats.

  • Atrioventricular Nodal Reentry Tachycardia - It is a type of abnormal heartbeat that is faster than normal.

What Are the Heart Conditions That Are Less Likely to Affect Women?

  • Atrial Fibrillation - Irregular and rapid heartbeat and causes poor blood flow.

  • Ventricular Fibrillation - Irregular heartbeats where the lower heart chambers work in an uncoordinated manner. In this condition, the heart will not pump blood to the rest of the body parts.

  • Sudden Cardiac Death - A medical emergency where the heart stops beating suddenly.

Conclusion

It is normal for a woman to have a higher heart rate compared to men. The changes in the physiology of the heart and the role of hormones in women are important factors responsible for this change. If the heart beats are above 100 beats per minute for a long time, during the resting period is problematic and needs medical attention.

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Dr. Yash Kathuria
Dr. Yash Kathuria

Family Physician

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