Cardiovascular Disease

Heart Health Uncovered: Are Men More Likely to Develop Heart Disease?


Zoe Miller, BSc, MD, MBChB
April 4, 2024
Take-home points
  • In 2019, coronary heart disease claimed at least 5 million men's lives worldwide, surpassing all other disease-related fatalities, including those of women at 4.2 million.
  • Men exhibit a higher susceptibility to heart disease, particularly coronary heart disease, with statistics indicating a 5x greater likelihood of fatality compared to women in certain regions, and an earlier onset by 7-10 years.
  • Lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking contribute significantly to the increased risk of heart disease in men, emphasising the importance of adopting healthier habits and seeking regular medical monitoring to mitigate these risks.
  • Lifestyle changes including exercise and diet, in addition to medication are established methods to treat or reverse heart disease.
  • Visit your healthcare professional if you are concerned about any health symptoms you may have.

In 2019, at least 5 million men died of coronary heart disease (the most common type of heart disease) around the world.1 That’s more deaths than from any other type of disease, but it’s also more than the number of women dying from coronary heart disease, which was 4.2 million. Why does heart disease affect men more commonly? Are men more likely to suffer from all types of heart disease? In this article, we’ll discuss the impact heart disease has on men specifically.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease covers a variety of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. Broadly speaking, heart disease can affect the blood vessels going to and from the heart, the rhythm of how the heart beats, and the structure of the heart (including the muscles and valves).

Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. This is when the blood vessels supplying your heart become blocked, stopping enough blood getting to the heart. If blood flow to the heart is reduced due to coronary heart disease, the heart can’t get enough nutrients to pump effectively. This can lead to angina – chest pain caused by poor blood flow.  If the blood flow gets worse suddenly and some of the heart’s arteries become completely blocked, this can lead to a heart attack. The seriousness of a heart attack depends on how much of the heart is affected, and whether the arteries can be unblocked.

If areas of the heart continue to receive poor blood flow, this can lead to permanent damage. When damaged, the heart isn’t able to pump as effectively, leading to heart failure.2

Gender differences in heart disease

As we’ve mentioned, more men die from coronary heart disease than women. In the UK, 1 in 8 men die from coronary heart disease.3 In some countries, men are 5x more likely than women to die of this type of heart disease.4 Men also tend to develop heart disease 7-10 years earlier than women.5 This may be because women are protected by high oestrogen levels before they reach menopause.6 However, it’s not just coronary heart disease that occurs earlier in men. Atrial fibrillation, a condition where the heart beats irregularly, also develops 10 years earlier in men, on average.7 Interestingly, despite often having lower rates of heart disease, women are more likely to have worse outcomes.8  

Let’s talk about why these differences exist in more detail.

Why are men more likely to develop heart disease?

To understand men’s higher risk of heart disease, we need to talk about what causes it. As we discussed earlier, poor blood supply to heart is the most common cause of heart disease. Poor blood supply is often due to the arteries becoming “clogged up” in a process known as atherosclerosis.

Diet, smoking, and alcohol use are all factors that contribute to this process that affect men more often than women.  


A diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt can increase the risk of heart disease.9 Men tend to eat more red and processed meats, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, and fewer fruits and vegetables.10 Men also eat more salt than women – some research suggest up to 28% more.11


Men tend to drink alcohol more often and in larger amounts than women, which is also linked to a higher risk of heart disease.12 Alcohol can increase blood pressure, which puts a strain on the heart. In large amounts over a prolonged period, alcohol can also directly damage the heart muscle.


Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease. It causes damage to the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. In the UK, 14.6% of men smoke compared to 11.2% of women.13  

There are many other factors that contribute to heart disease, such as genetics, exercise and obesity, underlying health conditions, and more. We’ve just focused on some of the factors that affect men more often, with the research to back this up.

What can I do to reduce my risk of heart disease?

These statistics might seem scary, but there’s lots of things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, and to manage the condition if you do develop it.

Lifestyle Changes

Often, diet is the first place to start. It’s important to eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Try to limit your salt intake to no more than 6g a day and reduce the amount of saturated fats you eat – this includes processed foods, red meat, and fried foods.

Regular exercise is also really important, as it’s amazing for cardiovascular health. Exercise can lower blood pressure, increase how effectively your heart works, and improve the fat levels in your blood.14 Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week that raises your heart rate.

As we mentioned earlier, smoking increases the risk of heart disease. By stopping smoking, it makes sense that you’ll significantly lower your risk of heart disease. It can be hard to quit, but there are services out there to help.  

Try to cut down how much alcohol you’re drinking where possible. Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 14 units a week. It’s also best to avoid binge drinking, and to have several drink-free days each week to give your body a rest.  

Medical Monitoring

Men are statistically less likely than women to seek medical help and tend to make fewer health appointments.15 By booking regular health appointments, attending the doctor when you notice any abnormal symptoms, and doing what you can to manage any ongoing health issues, you can also limit your risk of developing heart disease. High blood pressure is very common, especially in people over 60. It also increases the risk of developing heart disease. By taking any high blood pressure medications prescribed to you, and monitoring your blood pressure readings, you can help limit the associated risks.

Cholesterol levels are another risk factor for heart disease that can be limited with regular monitoring and appropriate medication (as well as diet). Your doctor may start you on a type of medication called statins which work to reduce your cholesterol. Finally, diabetes is another big risk factor for heart disease. A healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, if you already have diabetes, it’s important to control your blood sugars effectively and follow your doctor’s advice.

Yes, men may be more likely to develop heart disease, and to develop it earlier. But there’s plenty of things that can be done to reduce your risk and keep your heart healthy. If you are concerned about your health, it is important to visit your healthcare professional.

  1. British Heart Foundation. Global Heart & Circulatory Diseases Factsheet. 2023.
  2. NHS. Heart failure. 2022.
  3. British Heart Foundation. Our Vision Is a World Free from the Fear of Heart and Circulatory diseases. UK Factsheet. 2023.
  4. Bots S et al. BMJ Global Health. 2017; 2(2).
  5. Maas A et al. Netherlands Heart Journal. 2010; 18(12): 598–602.  
  6. Galiuto L et al. Journal of Integrative Cardiology. 2015; 1(1): 20-22.  
  7. Mayor S. British Medical Journal. 2017; 359:j4802.
  8. Di Giosia P et al. Pharmacological Research. 2017; 119: 36-47.
  9. Chareonrungrueangchai K et al. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1088.
  10. NHS Digital. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England 2021 – Diet. 2021.
  11. Lennie T et al. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 2020; 35(2): 131–6.
  12. Drinkaware. Alcohol consumption UK. 2022.
  13. Office for National Statistics. Adult smoking habits in the UK. 2022.
  14. ‌ Nystoriak M et al. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2018; 5: 135.
  15. Höhn A et al. BMJ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2020; 74(7): 573-579.

Keep up to date with current events and join our mailing list

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.