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Women and heart disease: What you should know

Women and heart disease: What you should know

Plenty of health conditions affect both women and men. But that doesn’t mean that your symptoms — or potential complications — will be the same as a man. In fact, many diseases affect women differently, including heart disease.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the number one killer of women in our country, above cancer and any other disease. And according to the National Institutes of Health, women are more likely to die from a heart attack than men. So what can you do to protect yourself?

What is coronary heart disease?

CHD is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Over time, this buildup can lead to chest pain (angina), and blood clots that can block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. It can also lead to heart failure, arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac arrest. This is the case for both men and women. But many people still think of heart attacks only affecting older men — so symptoms or risk factors might go unnoticed.

Heart attacks are different in women

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. But a heart attack in a woman may not include chest pain at all. The American Heart Association says women are likely to experience symptoms like nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, and back or jaw pain. For this reason, it can be difficult to know right away if you’re having a heart attack. Many women think they have an illness like the flu, and don’t seek medical help right away. This often occurs with younger women, who think they are not old enough to experience a heart attack.

Hormones and the heart

It appears that the hormonal changes that take place during a woman’s lifetime may raise her risk for heart disease. In particular, the natural decline in estrogen after menopause can put a woman at increased risk of a heart attack. Many women experience higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels during menopause.

In addition, if heart disease runs in your family or your physician has said you have an increased risk, your birth control options should be evaluated — even if you’re only in your 30s. There are many good birth control options for women who may be at an increased risk for heart disease. This typically includes progesterone-only pills, implants, and the intrauterine device (IUD).

Heart disease is just one of the many reasons you should see your physician regularly for well visits. Together, you can discuss your risk for heart disease and what you can do to lower it. Women of any age can benefit from a heart healthy lifestyle that includes maintaining or aiming for a healthy weight, regular exercise like walking, and a nutritious diet.

CarePoint Health Gynecology

With the help of a skilled gynecologist at CarePoint Health, you can make educated decisions about your health to be at your best at any stage of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.

Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.


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