• ​Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women globally, including in Singapore
  • $20,000 education grant from healthcare company Abbott to help raise public awareness of heart disease among women

While heart disease claims an equal number of lives among men and women, studies show that heart disease is deadlier in women, often going undiagnosed or undertreated [1] [2]. Despite this fact, many women are unaware that it is a leading cause of death, and are less likely to take precautions.

In light of this, the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) today launched the Women’s Heart Clinic which will offer end‐to‐end services, from prevention to diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, customised to the specific needs of women. The guest‐of‐honour, Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth, officiated the ceremony together with Adjunct Professor Terrance Chua, Medical Director, National Heart Centre Singapore.

At the launch, leading healthcare company Abbott presented a $20,000 educational grant to the NHCS Women’s Heart Clinic to support their public awareness efforts on heart disease among women. Associate Professor Carolyn Lam, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore, received the grant during the launch ceremony today.  “We wanted to cater to the biological, physiological and psychological needs of our women patients which are different from men. Women are more likely to ignore symptoms, inaccurately assess their own personal risks of heart disease and delay seeking medical treatment. Knowing all of this, we have chosen to put women’s needs at the ‘heart’ of our services and empower more women to take charge of their own heart health. Our clinic will guide and reassure them on their health journey,” said Associate Professor Carolyn Lam, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore.

The clinic will also serve as a knowledge centre, providing specialised training for medical students and doctors in Singapore and the region, to allow them to be better skilled in diagnosing heart disease in women early on. The end goal is for patients to be referred earlier to a heart specialist and receive the appropriate treatment timely. Early detection can prevent complications, such as heart failure, stroke and kidney disease. 

Abbott’s educational grant will be used to support the clinic’s efforts to engage with patients and the public to raise awareness and educate them on heart diseases among women. Dr Andrew Soh, Associate Director, Medical Scientific Liaison Group ‐ Asia Pacific at Abbott Diagnostics Division, hopes the grant will contribute to increased public awareness for women at risk of heart disease to seek care. “Too many women die annually from heart disease than from all cancers combined,” he said. “At Abbott, we believe good health is key to living life to the fullest and we want more women to take care of their heart health because they play a very important role in families and in our communities.”

The dedicated clinic will also allow for deepening of knowledge on women’s heart health to improve diagnosis and treatment. 

Importance of using gender‐specific thresholds in diagnosis of heart attack in women

Gender differences affect how heart disease manifests in women compared to men. For instance, most women exhibit different symptoms from men during a heart attack, which may not be typically associated with a heart attack [4]. This includes indigestion, heartburn or pain in the back, neck or jaw.  

Women tend to also be about a decade older than men when they suffer heart attacks, potentially making them frailer and more likely to suffer from other health problems, such as diabetes, which can make their treatment and recovery more complicated. A study led by NHCS found that diabetic women are more at risk of dying from heart attacks than diabetic men of a similar age, and one in two Asian women patients who suffered from a heart attack have diabetes [5]. When a heart attack occurs, the blood flow to parts of the heart is blocked, causing damage to the heart muscles. A protein known as troponin is released from the damaged heart muscle, and is considered the preferred biomarker to identify and predict heart attacks. As women generally have smaller hearts than men, the amount of troponin released during a heart attack of the same magnitude is lower for a woman than a man.  

“Now newer tests like Abbott’s high sensitive Troponin‐I test, which has gender‐specific thresholds has the potential to detect previously missed signs of heart attacks among women,” said Associate Professor Carolyn Lam. “This may help doctors today to provide early and accurate treatment to patients at higher risk.”

Abbott is working with NHCS on clinical studies to determine the benefits of using the high sensitive Troponin‐I test.



[1] "WHO publishes results of largest‐ever global collaboration on heart disease," World Health Organization, 2003. [Online]. Available: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr72/en/.
[2] J.H. Pope et al., "Missed diagnoses of acute cardiac ischemia in the emergency department.," New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 342, pp. 1163‐1170, 2000.
[3] "Women and Heart Disease," Singapore Heart Foundation, [Online]. Available: http://www.myheart.org.sg/article/about‐the‐heart‐and‐heart‐disease/statistics/women‐and‐heart‐disease/76.
[4] L. Rapaport, "Heart attack causes and symptoms are different in women," January 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/us‐health‐women‐heart‐attacks‐idUSKCN0V32QN.
[5] F. Gao et al., "Impact of the joint association between sex, age and diabetes on long‐term mortality after acute myocardial infarction," BMC Public Health, 2015.