Women's Silent Enemy: Heart Attacks

Dr. Amir

Did you know that women are less likely to survive heart attacks than men?  It may be because women do not seek and receive treatment as soon as men. Or it may be because women's hearts and blood vessels are smaller, thus more easily damaged.  Doctors are working on finding answers to these questions. There's no question, however, that it makes sense to prevent heart problems before they start.  One in 2.5 women will die of heart disease or stroke, whereas only one in 30 will succumb to breast cancer, yet most women do not take the appropriate steps to prevent this silent killer.  Women can significantly reduce their risk factors for heart disease and stroke by speaking to their physicians.

Cardiovascular disease encompasses the diseases of the heart and the blood vessels.  These develop and progress slowly over our lifetime and often without symptoms.  The build up of plaque in our arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, a process that begins in childhood, leads to  gradual deposition of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in our arteries.  Although plaques increase in size and eventually limit flow through an artery, most damage occurs when a plaque becomes fragile and ruptures.  The rupture of a plaque in the heart leads to a heart attack, whereas the rupture of a plaque in the brain leads to as stroke.

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in women has become the mission of many campaigns such as Go Red for Women and The Heart Truth.  The disparities between men and women in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease have been explained by several factors. Traditional cardiovascular studies were conducted on men.  Clinicians and patients often attribute women’s complaints to anxiety or heartburn.  In addition, women tend to have atypical presentation of cardiovascular disease including abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and unexplained fatigue.  Certain diagnostic tests such as the exercise stress test may be less accurate in women, failing to pick up a single heart vessel blockage. 

For both men and women, the biggest factors that contribute to heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, family history, and age. Take a moment to assess your lifestyle, family history and general health. With this information, you and your family doctor can evaluate your risk and devise a plan to avoid potential problems. Although you cannot change your family history or your age, you can change your lifestyle to avoid many of the other risk factors.

Women should speak with their physicians about the newest screening tests for cardiovascular disease.  Besides annual assessment to include a physical, lipid panel (cholesterol), blood pressure and diabetes screening, HealthwoRx™ physicians are now able to diagnose cardiovascular disease at its earliest onset using cutting edge technology EBCT, an ultra fast body CT.

Call your HealthwoRx™ physician to schedule your cardiovascular risk assessment today  954-967-6550.