Heart Attack hits women harder than it hits men, and it is more dangerous than breast cancer!
Usually, when a woman goes to see her doctor to find out why she felt lousy and experiences shortness of breath, heart disease never came up as a diagnosis, the physician most of the time attributes the symptoms to everything from work to a lack of physical activity.
According to Wendy Wray, the director of the Women`s Healthy Heart Initiative, “It`s an ongoing problem. Research shows that when General Practitioners see men and women with the same risk factors for heart disease, they`re more likely to talk to men about symptoms and reducing the risk than they are to women.”
The combination of Biology – women`s reproductive cycles have a tendency to affect study results – and clinical bias means heart disease in women is under-researched, and therefore under diagnosed and under treated.
All of this is worrisome when you consider that American Heart Association states that one in three women dies of heart disease each year – compared to one in 36 of breast cancer.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IT`S HEART ATTACK?
The classic Hollywood moment where a man suddenly clutches his chest and drops dramatically to his knees isn’t how most women experience heart attacks.
Yes, women do experience chest pains in 60 per cent of cases, but that`s often not their primary symptom, says Lisa McDonnell, the program manager for the Canadian Women`s Heart Health Centre in Ottawa. She notes that women are more likely to report so-called atypical symptoms such as:
(1) Unusual fatigue
(2) Shortness of breath
(3) Back Pain
(5) Flu-like symptoms
“This convolutes the issue, as both doctors and patients tend to think it could be something else”, she says.
In fact, heart disease symptoms are unrecognized in women up to 54 per cent of the time, according to a 2010 study in the journal Heart.
Because they don’t suspect they`re in danger, women will delay going to the hospital. The national survey on heart health behaviors found that almost 50 percent of women wouldn’t call an ambulance out of fear, embarrassment or a desire not to bother anyone. For doctors, timing is very important in this kind of situation. The sooner they get their hands on the patient, the more heart muscle can be saved.
SO WHAT WOMEN NEED TO KNOW
A heart attack occurs when a blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Without oxygenated blood, the heart muscles begin to die.
Both men and women have a greater chance of having a heart attack if they are obese, smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but some of these factors are heightened in women.
Smoking puts younger women at a 25 per cent greater risk than men, and women with diabetes are seven times more likely than men to have heart disease as well.
Marital stress can be another factor: researchers found that a combination of work and family pressures was accompanied by the highest risk and the worst prognosis in women`s coronary disease.
Then, there are things men don’t need to worry about, like menopause and pregnancy. Most women do not know that if they had pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy, it doubles the chances of developing heart disease five to 15 years postpartum.
THE GOOD NEWS?
The good news about heart disease is that so much of it is within our control. In a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that even the increased danger due to genetics (which can nearly double risk in some cases) can be modified by lifestyle changes.
Eating healthy, being active, and living smoke-free are the best known ones.
Getting enough sleep, avoiding excess alcohol and managing stress are also important. For example, recent research suggests that meditation can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in patients who already have coronary heart disease.
Keeping your blood pressure on target also reduces your risk. Everyone over the age 50 should have it checked once to twice per year at heir doctor`s office.
There are so many blood pressure monitors which can be useful. I recommend Qardio. (Wireless smart blood pressure monitor that fits in your daily life. Compatible with iOS and Android devices.)
Aside from your BP, asked about your cholesterol, your BMI, what activities you need to do and how much.
Then, when there are symptoms you`re not sure about, do not hesitate to seek assistance.
If you get sent home, so what? At least you can rest easy knowing you`ve been checked out!
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