Heart disease kills one in four women in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The most common cause of death in women is coronary heart disease, but women can also suffer from other types of heart disease, such as coronary microvascular disease.
Coronary heart disease is a condition in which plaque, a mixture of fat, cholesterol and calcium, builds up on the inner walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart. The plaque restricts the flow of blood through the arteries, which can cause chest pain. Sometimes, plaque can rupture and a blood clot can form on its surface, completely blocking the flow of blood. This is the most common cause of heart attack in women, notes the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Coronary heart disease can also cause irregular heartbeats, sudden cardiac arrest and heart failure.
Coronary microvascular disease is a condition in which tiny arteries in the heart become damaged. It is more common in women than in men. Some researchers think that falling estrogen levels during menopause contribute to the disease, reports the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Many tests for coronary heart disease do not detect coronary microvascular disease, which could be why, as of 2015, heart disease deaths haven't dropped as quickly in women as they have in men.