1 in 4 women will die of heart disease and unlike the corresponding male population, almost two-thirds who die suddenly of coronary artery disease have no previous symptoms. Scary? You bet. While most people know that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death, you may not know that it’s also the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
Surprising Facts about Heart Disease in Women
Mental health: Emotional components such as anxiety more commonly contribute to heart disease in women than they do in men. Marital stress also worsens the prognosis in women with heart disease. Effectively managing stress is essential, as well as eating a heart healthy diet.
Missed arterial plaque: Men's plaque distributes in clumps whereas women’s distributes more evenly throughout artery walls. This results in women's angiographic studies being misinterpreted as “normal”.
Atypical symptoms of heart attack: 71% of women experience early warning signs of heart attack with sudden onset of extreme weakness that feels like the flu - often with no chest pain at all.
Delays in diagnosis: Women wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack and physicians are slower to recognize the presence of heart attacks in women because characteristic patterns of chest pain and EKG changes are less frequently present.
Know Your Risk Factors
Important risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Other factors include being overweight, eating a poor diet, physical inactivity and alcohol use.
To decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, it’s important to know your blood pressure, cholesterol status and blood sugar levels. Screening for these factors should be annually determined and monitored by your doctor, starting at the age of 40 or younger depending on your family history and your own risk factors. An annual exam and lab work are especially important elements that allow you and your doctor to monitor your risk.
Calculate Your Risk
A great tool developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology that you and your physician can use to estimate your 10-year risk of heart attack and stroke is the ASCVD Risk Estimate calculator, found here: http://tools.acc.org/ASCVD-Risk-estimator/
The Bastyr Center for Natural Health combines the expertise of primary care medicine, nutrition, physical medicine and counseling to create an integrative care plan specifically individualized to your life and personal risk profile. Schedule an appointment today if you have type-1 or type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
“Women and Heart Disease Facts.” Women’s Heart Foundation. http://www.womensheart.org/content/heartdisease/heart_disease_facts.asp
“Lower your risk for the number 1 killer of women.” CDC Office of Women’s Health. 7 Februrary 2017. 17 March 2017.