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Coronary Microvascular Disease

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Coronary Artery Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Men and women differ in just about every way imaginable. Men are the traditional hunters while women are the tenders of the hearth and food gatherers.

Papa explains the “facts of life” and mama kisses the hurts away and makes it all better. Women operate in Venus and most of the men I know definitely live in Mars.

Our heart health is no different and the way that heart disease manifests in women can be very different than it appears in men. One of the less well-known heart diseases that is unfortunately more prevalent in women is coronary microvascular disease.

Unlike coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease or CHD, which affects large heart arteries, coronary microvascular disease, or MVD, affects the smallest heart arteries. Also known as cardiac syndrome X or non-obstructive CHD, MVD is more common in women than men, particularly after menopause.

Some researchers believe that the higher rates of MVD in women may be a result of the effects of lower estrogen levels experienced by postmenopausal women on existing MVD risk factors. It’s also believed that MVD may be the reason why death rates from heart disease have not declined as much in women as in men.

One of the challenges facing health care professionals and women is that MVD is not easily detected. The standard tests used to detect heart disease focus on detecting blockages in the large heart arteries.

Since MVD affects the small heart arteries, standard tests don’t catch problems with these tiny arteries. As a result, it’s possible to be a low risk for CHD but still have a high risk for heart disease due to undiagnosed MVD.

Many women may walk away from standard tests with a “good” report indicating a low risk for heart disease when in fact they simply don’t have the full heart health picture.

Because risk factors for MVD are similar to those for CHD, CHD will most likely be the suspected culprit if you are experiencing heart-related symptoms such as chest pain, low energy levels, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, or unusual fatigue.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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