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Health 187 views Apr 02, 2018
Why Heart Disease is a Bigger Threat to Women

Heart disease has, for the most part,mainly been regarded as a condition that affects men. In truth, heart disease is the most common cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The biggest challenge is that heart disease signs and symptoms in women may differ from those experienced by men.

For this main reason, women who do present with symptoms that would otherwise indicate potential heart disease in them are diagnosed with other conditions such as acute anxiety or gastrointestinal problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease or stomach ulcers.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Women

The most common symptom of coronary artery occlusion in women is some sort of pain, discomfort, or pressure felt in the chest. Most of the time the pain isn’t severe or the most prominent symptom experienced by women as they can have a heart attack without even complaining of chest-related problems. Women are also more likely to complain of symptoms that are not related to the chest but are otherwise associated with a heart attack. These include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Pain in one or both arms.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Upper back or abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Pain radiating to the jaw, neck, or shoulder.
  • Unusual fatigue.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.

The reason why women may complain more of these issues than that of chest pain or discomfort is that they may have occlusions of the smaller coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. This may be referred to as coronary microvascular disease.

Mental anguish and stress can be a trigger for heart attack symptoms in women and the issues may even occur more often when they are at rest or even asleep.

Since the symptoms that women experience are usually not considered severe enough to make one think of a heart attack and are thus often downplayed as being caused by something else, these patients tend to present to an emergency room after they have suffered heart muscle damage.

It is therefore very important to know that heart attacks in women present differently from men. If the mentioned symptoms are experienced, women should present to an emergency room as soon as possible to be assessed properly and to receive immediate medical attention. Here is a resource of some of the best doctors and hospitals who treat cardiovascular conditions.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women

In both men and women, risk factors that can increase the risk of developing heart disease include issues such as high blood pressure (hypertension), elevated cholesterol levels, and obesity. In women alone though, there are certain risk factors that elevate their risk of developing heart disease when compared to their male counterparts.1These risk factors include:

  • Mental health issues – increased emotional and physical stressors and mental health conditions such as depression affect a woman’s heart more than it does that of a man’s.
  • Diabetes – uncontrolled glucose levels in the bloodstream put women at a higher risk of heart disease than in men.
  • Smoking.
  • Physical inactivity – apparently women, in general, are less physically active than men.
  • Complications of pregnancy – conditions such as hypertension and diabetes that develop during a pregnancy may lead to these conditions remaining with the affected individual over the long-term. In turn, these chronic conditions can lead to cardiovascular disease if not adequately controlled.
  • Menopause – when the ovaries eventually stop producing the hormone estrogen, the affected female enters the stage known as menopause. Decreased estrogen levels in the body make one more prone to developing heart-related illnesses due to the increased risk of small blood vessel pathology.
  • Broken heart syndrome – this condition is associated with the development of heart failure due to one experiencing very stressful situations. This is a temporary change in the structure of the heart and occurs more commonly in women after menopause.
  • Exposure to chemotherapy medications and radiation therapy – medications and radiation treatment to manage conditions such as breast cancer seem to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.

Autoimmune conditions – women with autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis may also be more prone to developing heart-related pathologies. This may seem to do with the fact that autoimmune disorders are associated with inflammatory processes that occur in different areas of the body and may affect the blood vessels of the heart.

Tags: #Heart Disease 

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