Heart disease has been a relatively unknown killer of far too many women for far too long. It's essential that this situation be changed through increased awareness and greater flow of information to the women and to the medical professionals who need it.
A survey was performed with the participation of 1011 women between the ages of 25 and 60 years old. Many of them thought women are more at risk for breast cancer than for heart disease. About 50 percent of the women surveyed did not know that heart disease is actually the leading threat for women.
The research was carried out by Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, along with colleagues.
Each year, about 400,000 women die from heart disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one-tenth of that number will die from breast cancer per year.
And while breast cancer deaths have declined over several decades, 1 out of 4 women in the United States will die of heart disease Merz explained in an article by NPR..
Dr. Laxmi Mehta, a cardiologist at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, was chair for a committee of the American Heart Association. In 2016, their first scientific statement concerning women and heart attacks was released.
Greater awareness about how heart disease manifests in women is needed, so that those with heart disease can receive proper diagnosis.
Women who have been diagnosed with a heart attack have less chance of getting cardiac rehabilitation program referrals than men, Mehta said in the same NPR article This is extremely unfortunate because the risk of having another heart attack is diminished considerably by involvement in such programs.
Mehta stated that aspirin, beta blockers, statins and other treatments may help women who have heart disease.
Women have different signs and symptoms of heart attack than men do. Since most of the research has been done on men, these differences often go unnoticed.
While men are more likely to experience major artery blockage, women tend to have problems with tiny arteries in the heart. A man's angiogram will make his problem very visible but this is not the case for a woman Mehta explained.
Merz said the survey showed that 74 percent of all women will exhibit at least one risk factor for heart disease. It may be diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hitting menopause early, irregular periods, or heart disease in family history. As few as 16 percent had been told this by a doctor.
The doctors were more interested in their weight and breast health.
Women can have early symptoms that if attended to, will be recognized as pointing to a pending heart attack. But often the indicators are overlooked, and the heart attack comes with, seemingly, no warning.
Some of these signs are severe fatigue, sleep issues, shortness of breath, greater than usual anxiety and indigestion.
During a heart attack, a woman is less likely to have extreme chest pain than a man. She is more likely to experience aching, burning, pressure or tightness in her arms, upper back, jaw, neck, shoulders or throat.
She may also experience cold sweats, dizziness, indigestion, nausea or stomach pain.
Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer said that many women may wonder if they have the flu or reflux.
Mehta encourages all women to pay attention to their bodies, and to get medical attention if anything seems wrong. Women should not hesitate to bring up the subject of possible heart disease with their physicians.
Reviewed June 26, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Hidden Heart Disease Is The Top Health Threat For U.S. Women. NPR.org. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
Hidden Heart Attack Signs in Women. Empowher.com. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women. Heart.org. Retrieved June 26, 2016.