How Does Heart Disease Affect Women?

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Heart disease is different in women than it is in men. Cardiovascular disease killed 513,000 women in 1999 versus the 264,000 women killed by cancer. Ever since 1984, more women have died from heart disease than men.

Symptoms and the very nature of the disease can differ in women than in men including symptoms of heart disease, differences in risk factors, and in how the heart disease is diagnosed. When women are informed about these differences it can make a difference in how they are treated and perhaps even save their life.

Most of the risk factors are similar in women as in men when it comes to heart disease but there are a few differences. The non-controllable risk factors of heart disease for women are a family history of heart disease or stroke, being age 55 or older, being post-menopausal, or having had both ovaries removed. Women are also at increased risk if they have family members who had cardiac disease before age 60 especially if the family member was a sibling. Controllable risk factors are those factors that we can do something about such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and having high blood pressure or high total cholesterol, or a reduced HDL cholesterol, someone with diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, or a woman who uses birth control pills, especially if they are also a smoker. A woman may also have an increased risk for heart disease if they had a complicated pregnancy such as experiencing hypertension, gestational diabetes, or low birth weight baby.

Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, hypertension, cholesterol abnormalities, and metabolic syndrome are all risk factors for heart disease in women. Women who are C-Reactive Protein (CRP), which indicates a blood vessel inflammation, can lead to heart disease.

Women usually experience atypical symptoms of heart disease such as a hot or burning sensation, or even a tenderness to the touch, in the back, shoulders, arms, or the jaw line. Women may not experience chest discomfort. Women will usually experience nausea, vomiting, indigestion, shortness of breath or extreme fatigue but no chest pain when they are having a heart attack.

Women may be experiencing angina if they have pain, pressure, a burning sensation or squeezing of the chest, jaw, shoulders, arms, or in the back lasting more than 5 to 10 minutes. They may also have periods of palpitations with lightheadedness or dizziness. Women may also have sudden sweating for an unknown reason, or a loss of consciousness or fainting. They may also have a sudden feeling of doom or high anxiety.

When making the diagnosis of heart disease in women cardiologists should perform an echocardiogram or a thallium study along with the stress test when making the diagnosis on a woman.

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Originally posted 2008-10-12 11:17:10. We hope you have enjoyed this Post From the Past!

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