Only one of every five women in America believe that heart disease is her greatest health risk. The truth is, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year – that’s about one woman each minute.
But the symptoms – and treatment – of women experiencing heart issues are different, which often creates a gender gap in cardiac treatment.
Even though heart disease has emerged as the top killer of American women, the Washington Postreported there’s long been a belief that cardiovascular disease is primarily a man’s disease.
Two studies show that doctors treat women differently when it comes to heart disease, and women are often reluctant to indicate they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.
In the first study, the Washington Postreported researchers analyzed medical records of and interviewed 3,501 heart attack patients from more than 100 hospitals in the United States and Spain between a five-year span. About two-thirds were women.
The study noted nearly all patients had at least one of the five cardiac risk factors: diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. But women were 11 percent less likely than men to report being told they were at risk for heart disease before experiencing a heart attack and 16 percent are less likely to say they talked with a doctor about ways to reduce that risk.
The second study analyzed nearly 650,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 59 who experienced ST-elevation myocardial infarction, which is caused by a 100 percent blockage of blood supply in the heart. Treatment for this type of heart attack includes angioplasty (inflating a tiny balloon in the artery to unclog and open it) combined with stenting, which involves placement of a small wire mesh tube called a stent to help prop the artery open.
Perhaps that’s because some signs of a heart attack are different in women. Just like men, according to Second Count, women often experience chest pain or discomfort; pain radiating to the neck, back, shoulder, arm or jaw; change in heart rhythm; difficulty breathing; nausea; cold sweats; and dizziness. However, there are symptoms specific to women. These are:
- Sudden onset of weakness, shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, indigestion, fatigue, body aches or overall feeling of illness (without chest pain)
- Unusual feeling or mild discomfort in the back, chest, arm, neck or jaw (without chest pain)
- Sleep disturbance
To prevent the chance of heart disease, Medline Plus recommended the following:
- Control your blood pressure
- Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
- Limit alcohol
- Don’t smoke
- Manage stress
- Manage diabetes
- Make sure that you get enough sleep
Tags: heart disease