Heart disease in women is just as prevalent as heart disease in men. When you think of heart disease, what do you think of? Like many of us we envision a middle age man. Many women have looked after their spouses for so long, they have neglected the signs of their own heart attack. Discounting their symptoms as stomach upset or plan fatigue. Denial is a major killer in heart disease. Denial of the symptoms leads to premature death.
Heart disease in women is similar to heart disease in men, however there are differences that are unique to women. Women for centuries have taken the nurturing role. Providing aid for the weak and weary. Florence Nightingale is a prime example, she encompasses nursing and delivered kind, compassionate care to the sick. It is a fact that heart disease in women leads to more deaths than any other cause as of 2010. You are are at risk of developing heart disease if you:
Have a personal history of Cardiovascular Heart Disease (CHD)
Are over the age 55
High cholesterol ; high LDL, Low HDL
Have a family history of CHD; Mother, Father, Brother, sister died of CHD
Have High Blood Pressure
Have a history of a blood clots in your legs, arms, or lungs. A history of poor blood circulation in your legs, or after walking some short distance develop a cramp in the back of your legs.
It is important to note that cholesterol levels in the blood for women differ that from men. Just by having high LDL in a women's blood is not as significant as having low HDL. Low levels of HDL are a better predictor of CHD in women. Studies have shown that premenopausal women develop MI or angina 5 times more likely than the same woman with a higher HDL level and twice as likely in postmenopausal women. Women who have taken cholesterol lowering medication respond better than men to the treatment. Reducing their risk as much as 20% when compared to men.
Diabetes is a risk major risk factor for men and women. Studies have shown that women are 1.5 times as likely to develop CHD over men. Uncontrolled diabetes affects the veins and arteries by physically damaging them. The damage in the veins and arteries leads to clot formations in the legs, arms, lungs and of course heart and brain. Of the women that presented to the ER with chest pain some of them only had diabetes as a risk factor.
A common risk factor for men and women, however women have more risk than men. Young women that take BCP's and smoke are twice as likely to develop CHD than their non-smoking counter part. It is recommended that women who take BCP's do not smoke.
CHD in premenopausal women is unusual, it happens very infrequently, but it can happen. Estrogen in women protects the arteries from damage, thusly lowering their risk. Agencies have valuated postmenopausal states as being a risk factor in women, giving it as much weight as gender for males. There are conflicting reports whether natural vs surgical menopause (removing uterus) affects women's heart disease risk. Early natural menopause has been shown to have increased risk in developing CHD. An interesting study did show that taking a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drug did not lower ones risk of developing CHD. So by just taking estrogen replacement drugs does not help heart disease in women, as it stands today.
Studies have not correlated pregnancy as a risk factor in developing CHD. They did however uncover one interesting fact in that in multi-pregnancies women they have a higher risk than for women who have never been pregnant. The results are only significant if the woman has had more than 6 children. It is important to note that other risk factors may come in to play with having multiple children such as smoking, drinking and physical inactivity (hard to believe to be physically inactive with 6 children, but that is what the study suggested). Recently, I have a friend working on a labor and delivery department of my hospital that had a young woman (32) develop chest pressure shortly after giving birth. She had all the symptoms chest heaviness, SOB and sweating. She did an ECG and showed some changes however some cardiac blood markers were normal. The risk in pregnancy would therefore be similar in developing a clot after surgery. Where the clot travels would lead to your specific symptoms. SOB lungs, leg cramps and pain and swelling, stroke symptoms etc.
So be on the look out for signs and symptoms of heart disease in women. Chest pain (pressure, heaviness, squeezing) people have described it as a "elephant on my chest". Pain just below the rib cage (stomach) area known as epigastric pain. Symptoms of indigestion, sweating, SOB. Pain that goes into the jaw or left arm. The biggest symptom is denial. Don't deny your symptoms just because your a woman. Don't delay act today! (sounds like a commercial)