Men and Heart Disease

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 20, 2022
4 min read

When you think of heart disease in men, you likely think of coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart), but coronary artery disease is just one type of heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease includes a number of conditions affecting the structures or function of the heart. They can include:

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. It is important to learn about your heart to help prevent heart disease. And, if you have heart disease, you can live a healthier, more active life by learning about your disease and treatments and by becoming an active participant in your care.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is atherosclerosis, or hardening, of the arteries that provide vital oxygen and nutrients to the heart.

The heart is an amazing organ. It beats in a steady, even rhythm, about 60 to 100 times each minute. (That's about 100,000 times each day!) But, sometimes your heart gets out of rhythm. An irregular or abnormal heartbeat is called an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia (also called a dysrhythmia) can involve a change in the rhythm, producing an uneven heartbeat, or a change in the rate, causing a very slow or very fast heartbeat.

The term "heart failure" can be frightening. It does not mean the heart has "failed" or stopped working. It means the heart does not pump as well as it should.

Heart failure is a major health problem in the U.S., affecting nearly 5 million Americans. About 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than age 65.

Your heart valves lie at the exit of each of your four heart chambers and maintain one-way blood-flow through your heart. Heart valve disease includes problems when valves become leaky or stiffened

Examples of heart valve disease include mitral valve prolapse, aortic stenosis, and mitral valve insufficiency.

Congenital heart disease is a type of defect in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels that occur before birth.

It affects about 8 out of every 1,000 children. Congenital heart defects may produce symptoms at birth, during childhood, and sometimes not until adulthood.

In most cases scientists don't know why they occur. Heredity and genetics may play a role, as well as exposure to the fetus during pregnancy to certain viral infections, alcohol, or drugs.

Cardiomyopathies, also called an enlarged heart, are diseases of the heart muscle itself. People with cardiomyopathies have hearts that are abnormally enlarged, thickened, and/or stiffened. As a result, the heart's ability to pump blood is weakened. Without treatment, cardiomyopathies worsen over time and often lead to heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Pericarditis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds the heart. It is a rare condition often caused by an infection.

The aorta is the large artery that leaves the heart and provides oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. These diseases and conditions can cause the aorta to dilate (widen) or dissect (tear), increasing the risk for future life-threatening events:

  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Genetic conditions, such as Marfan syndrome, which causes the aorta to be weakened as it leaves the heart; this can lead to an aneurysm or ripping (dissection) of the aorta. Both can be repaired with surgery if caught early.
  • Connective tissue disorders (that affect the strength of the blood vessel walls), such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, scleroderma, osteogenesis imperfecta, polycystic kidney disease, and Turner's syndrome
  • Injury

People with aortic disease should be treated by an experienced team of heart specialists and surgeons.

Your circulatory system is the system of blood vessels that carry blood to every part of your body.

Vascular disease includes any condition that affects your circulatory system. These include diseases of the arteries and blood flow to the brain.

Just being a man makes you more likely to get heart disease at a younger age -- about 10 years earlier on average. Both erectile dysfunction (ED) and low testosterone can be early warning signs of heart disease for men. Talk to your doctor about ED or low testosterone and what each one might mean about your heart and your general health.

Men are also more prone to some forms of stress and anger that can raise blood pressure and stress hormones and restrict blood flow to the heart. This raises risk for heart disease.

Anger can have an immediate effect too. You’re almost five times more likely to have a heart attack and three times more likely to have a stroke in the 2 hours after an angry outburst.

And the signs of heart attack are often different in men and women. Men typically have chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain or tingling in the arms, back, or neck. Women may notice dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, fatigue, and heartburn.