Heart Disease: Women-Focused

October 6th, 2018 - Posted to Cardiology

Cardiovascular DiseasesWith each year that passes, 1 in 3 women in the United States dies because of a heart attack, and even if the consequences happen not to be fatal, every 90 seconds an American woman still suffers from a heart attack that comes with its own set of health risks.

Despite the accessibility of such grim recorded data, reports show that women are unaware of their number one enemy, perpetuating the belief that the most acute threat to their lives is breast cancer.

The truth, as demonstrated by collected information is that more women die from heart disease than from all existing types of cancer combined. Even if it represents a disease that is just as common with men, in the case of women the particular details that only apply to the female population slip by unnoticed and cause the kind of misinformation that made the larger part of American females misidentify their greatest menace.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

About 35% of heart attacks that happen to women in the U.S. are unattended, either because they were not noticed or they were noticed but not further reported to medical professionals. In the case of women, heart disease has a different look and feel to it than it has with men. Thus, the signs a woman that suspects she is having or had a heart attack are one or more of the following:

  • dizziness
  • jaw, neck, shoulder or abdominal upset
  • nausea
  • pain in the arms
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • uncommon fatigue

Admittedly, it is easy to understand why symptoms such as these would not immediately make somebody conclude that they are having a heart attack, especially if they had only been educated about certain types of warning signs that do not ever really apply to them, as it the case with women mentally checking for signs of heart attack that are more common with men. In fact, a large number of women have been documented as going to the emergency room after they had already had a heart attack because it is also a habit for women to downplay their pain.

Risk Factors in Developing Heart Disease

Aside from a few health conditions that can aggravate the risk for heart disease for both men and women, most commonly obesity, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, there exist other agents that greatly increase the chances of a woman to suffer from heart disease, such as:

  • Inactivity. Lack of physical activity is more of a problem for women than it is for men, and it increases the likelihood of an unhealthy heart.
  • Stress and depression. Mental disorders are demonstrated to have a heavier impact on women’s hearts than on men’s, and depression is twice as common among the female population.
  • Alcohol. Loose alcohol consumption causes weight gain, and the extra weight raises blood pressure which can lead to heart disease.
  • Smoking. It is especially dangerous to increase risks for cardiovascular issues for women who smoke and are also on birth control pills.
  • Diabetes. Research shows that women suffering from diabetes are three times more likely to develop heart disease.
  • Pregnancy complications. If high blood pressure issues appear during pregnancy, studies show that the problems can potentially continue afterward as well. Data also indicates that in these circumstances the child is at great risk of developing heart disease as they grow up.
  • Breast cancer chemotherapy. Even if it is not exclusively linked to women, it is more common among them.
  • Menopause. Heart disease is more present in the cases of women that have reached menopause because of significantly reduced estrogen levels contribute to increased blood pressure.

How to Reduce Risks of Heart Disease

Contrary to popular belief, it is not just older women that need to be concerned about heart disease. Females of all ages should actively take steps to prevent cardiovascular illnesses. Consistent lifestyle changes are shown to lower risks of heart disease by as much as 80%.

A few adjustments you can make to your day-to-day include:

  • Get enough sleep. Fail to do so and the next day your blood pressure will be increased. If it repeatedly happens over a long period of time, you might develop cardiovascular issues.
  • Maintain a normal weight. The exact measurements vary from person to person, but your body mass index (BMI) can help you set a standard by doing an analysis of the interrelation between your height and weight.
  • Plan healthy meals. While grocery shopping, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products should be at the top of your list.
  • Quit smoking or do not form this habit if you are not already guilty of it.
  • Reduce alcohol intake. Try to stick to one drink a day, but you may consider getting rid of drinking alcohol altogether.
  • Regular exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week is the minimum required to protect your heart. If you cannot fit 30 minutes into your schedule, you can split it into 10-minute sets and distribute it however you wish for your day to run smoothly.

Heart Disease Treatment

If lifestyle changes do not have the desired impact and not suffice in reducing managing heart disease risks, then your doctor will offer you a few other solutions depending on your particular situation. Options may include:

  • medication: generally to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • angioplasty and stenting: a procedure meant to open blocked blood vessels for better circulation
  • coronary bypass surgery: a surgery that requires opening the chest to tend to damaged arteries and to restore blood flow to the heart
  • cardiac rehabilitation: a program that includes supervised nutrition, physical activity, stress guidance, assistance in quitting alcohol and smoking, and an overall education about an all-encompassing lifestyle