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Your Heart is Different Than His


One out of every three women has some form of cardiovascular disease. It is a myth that heart disease is a man’s disease. In fact, cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer of women. Coronary heart disease is the single most common cause of death for women in the United States. Cardiovascular diseases currently claim the lives of about half a million females every year. In 64percent of women who died suddenly of cardiovascular disease, there were no previous symptoms of the disease.

In the United States, cardiovascular disease kills about 484,000 women annually, while other forms of cancer combined kill about 268,000 women. Although the numbers are alarming, nearly 18,900 women under age 65 die of coronary heart disease each year, with about 35 percent of these women under age 55.

Surprisingly, 38 percent of women who’ve had heart attacks die within the year of their attack, compared with 25 percent of men. Because women have heart attacks at older ages, they are more likely than men to die from them within a few weeks. African-American women are at a higher risk of death from cardiovascular diseases than are Caucasian women.

Unfortunately, many women do not know that the symptoms of a woman having a heart attack can be significantly different from those of a man. C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., Chair of the American College of Cardiology's Prevention and Cardiovascular Diseases Committee offers a dozen important heart tips for women which are:

1. If you're over age 18, have your blood pressure checked annually; over age 45, have your blood cholesterol and blood sugar checked each year; and if you have a family history of heart disease in a relative prior to the age of 60, especially in a female relative, ask your physician to do these tests at earlier ages and to consider additional tests such as treadmill testing and other heart disease screening tests.

2. Be aware that the symptoms for women having a heart attack are often different from those of a man, but any of the following symptoms can occur in men and women:

Classic Symptoms

  • Squeezing chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in chest
  • Pain spreading to shoulders, neck or arm
  • Feeling of heartburn or indigestion with or without nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness

Symptoms More Likely in Women

  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weakness, fatigue
  • Discomfort/pain between shoulder blades
  • Recurring chest discomfort
  • Sense of impending doom

3. Talk to your doctor or gynecologist regularly about your heart health. Be proactive in bringing this topic up for discussion. Ask for a thorough assessment of your heart disease risk factors: family history, cholesterol - especially LDL, HDL and triglycerides - glucose (blood sugar) levels, blood pressure, smoking history, weight, stress and exercise. If you have risk factors, formulate a plan with your doctor to reduce or eliminate or reduce them.

4. If you have one or more risk factors, ask your doctor or gynecologist if you should have an electrocardiogram (ECG) or exercise stress test.

5. Ask your doctor or gynecologist to review risk factors for heart disease and heart attack symptoms during your annual check-up. Discuss these with your family and friends, along with the importance of calling 9-1-1 if these symptoms occur.

6. Tell your doctor or gynecologist about any personal or family history of heart disease.

7. Make sure you understand any medications or special instructions your doctor has given you, including when you need to have follow-up tests.

8. Be aware of your diet and lifestyle. Read labels and avoid foods that are high in saturated fats. Aim to eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and look for other ways to get more exercise.

9. Don't smoke If you do smoke, stop.

10. If you are experiencing symptoms that could be a signal of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 and get to the emergency room quickly to minimize possible damage to your heart.

11. Consider taking aspirin at the first sign of heart attack symptoms.

12. Check out nearby cardiac rehabilitation centers and community programs to help you stop smoking, get regular exercise, lose weight and reduce stress.

If you are experiencing symptoms that could be signaling a heart attack or if you see someone else with these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and summon an ambulance. Do not attempt to drive yourself as only paramedics and trained fire department personnel have the necessary equipment to revive you if your heart has stopped beating. Give the patient one aspirin to chew, and if she or he is not breathing, start rescue breathing. Above all, get to the hospital as quickly as possible because the longer a heart attack goes untreated, the more badly damaged your heart will be.

Source: MedicineNet.com


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