Heart Disease and Women
Barb Christensen | posted January 26, 2012 |
Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease and indeed, it affects millions of men in the United States. But coronary heart disease (CHD) is actually the number-one killer of men AND women in this country—both men and women have heart attacks, but more women who have heart attacks die from them. In fact, one in four women die from heart disease.
Two other types of heart disease primarily affect women, coronary microvascular disease (MVD) and “broken heart syndrome.” These two disorders are not as well understood as CHD, although researchers are learning more with new studies.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at these three types of heart disease, as well as symptoms of a heart attack for women and outlook.
Coronary Heart Disease
Your coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that bring your heart blood, oxygen and nutrients. CHD is diagnosed when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside these arteries and reduces the flow of blood to the heart.
This plaque often hardens and can cause chest pain or discomfort, called angina. Sometimes, the plaque ruptures and causes a clot that partially or completely blocks blood flow through the coronary artery, which is the most common cause of a heart attack in men and women. The plaque can also build up to cause a complete blockage, which can also cause a heart attack.
Coronary Microvascular Disease
Coronary MVD is more likely to affect men than women and standard tests for CHD do not detect MVD, so some women who have MVD may look like they are at low risk for heart disease.
Coronary MVD is diagnosed when the walls of the heart’s tiny arteries are damaged. It’s also called cardiac syndrome X or nonobstructive CHD. Some researchers think that the reason women are more likely to have MVD is because of the drop in estrogen levels during menopause in tandem with other heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure or smoking.
Broken Heart Syndrome
Another condition that happens more often in women then men is called “broken heart syndrome.” This occurs when tremendous emotional stress leads to severe, but usually short-term, heart muscle failure. Most people have a full and quick recovery, although many are first incorrectly diagnosed with a heart attack because of similar symptoms. This is a fairly newly recognized disorder and researchers are just beginning to investigate causes and treatment.
What are the signs of a heart attack for women?
The most common sign of a heart attack for men and women is pain or discomfort in the chest that can be mild or intense, ongoing in duration or coming and going. The signs of a heart attack can come on suddenly, but they can also develop slowly, over hours, days, and even weeks before a heart attack. Other common symptoms for men and women include:
* Pain or discomfort in arm(s), back, neck, jaw or stomach
* Shortness of breath
* Breaking out in a cold sweat
* Feeling faint or lightheaded
Women frequently exhibit the less common signs of a heart attack, including:
* Loss of appetite
* Feeling tired/weak
* Heart flutters
Remember, the more of these symptoms that you have, the more likely it is that you are having a heart attack. And if you’ve had a heart attack before, the symptoms of another one may be different.
Time is critical with a heart attack—even if you’re not sure, you should see a medical professional immediately. If you or someone else may be experiencing a heart attack, call 911 within a few minutes (five at the most).
Outlook for women
As it turns out, women are affected by CHD on average ten years later than men. But this could turn out to be a good thing, because it gives women more time to control and change CHD risk factors, including:
* High blood cholesterol and triglyceride
* High blood pressure
* Overweight and obesity
* Lack of physical activity
* Unhealthy diet
Changes to lifestyle, medicines and medical/surgical procedures can help women lower their risk for heart disease and CHD. For this reason, prevention should start as early as possible in life and be ongoing.
Occupational Therapy Month | posted March 27, 2013
National Occupational Therapy month is a time to bring awareness to the benefits and importance of occupational therapy. We want to take this opportunity to thank our occupational therapists for their commitment to improving the lives of thousands of individuals every day of the year.
Fourth Annual WALK! with Aegis Event | posted September 24, 2012
The fourth annual WALK! with Aegis Therapies 2012 is this week, and we’re thrilled to see this year’s participants take charge and promote active aging! We’re expecting one of the largest nationwide turnouts with over 670 registered locations and thousands of participants joining the WALK! with Aegis Therapies.
Occupational therapy helps those with Alzheimer’s | posted August 16, 2012
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness that affects at least 5.4 million Americans. Occupational therapists offer treatments that can promote safety and enhance a patient’s quality of life, in addition to providing comfort and care for people with the disease and their families.