Annually, about 610,000 deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease, and half of the victims are women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African-American and Caucasian women in the country today, ahead of cancer and stroke. The main cause of heart disease, medically known as coronary artery disease, is characterized by the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries. The blockage is a result of the hardening of the arteries and gradually progresses over time. At Pulse Cardiology, we have made the care of women’s heart health in our community a priority. With a dedicated female cardiologist who is committed to patient education and community outreach, the hearts of the women in our community can rest assured that they are in the right hands. From prevention of heart problems before they start to tenderly caring for the hearts of women who are suffering from established heart disease – your heart deserves and receives the attention of our entire team. Each patient holds the key to a heart-healthy lifestyle and together we can achieve that goal. No matter the concern, our philosophy is: We will get to the heart of it.
For anyone with heart disease, there is a predisposition to complications such as angina, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and heart failure. Unfortunately, these complications can be further worrisome for some women because they may not notice the presence of a major heart problem due to “silent” symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 64% of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have had no previous symptoms. In fact, many women are diagnosed only when they show signs including:
• Arrhythmia – characterized by a problem in the rhythm of the heartbeat, causing “fluttering” feelings in the chest
• Heart Failure – often characterized by shortness of breath, discomfort and pain, fatigue, swelling of the legs, feet, ankles, and abdomen
• Myocardial Infarction - defined by shortness of breath, heartburn, upper body discomfort, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, upper back pain, indigestion
• Stroke – abrupt weakness, and numbness or paralysis of the face, arms and legs. Other symptoms may include confusion, severe and sudden headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, difficulty in speaking or comprehending, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, loss of coordination, and loss of consciousness.
• Coronary Artery Disease
• High Cholesterol (Lipid Disorders)
• Valvular Pathology
• Rheumatic Heart Disease
• Sleep Disorders
• Pregnancy-related Cardiac Issues
Women experience heart attack symptoms differently than men. Many females may experience dizziness, sweating, and an upset stomach – symptoms not typically associated with a heart attack, especially in men. “I thought I had the flu” is a common statement from female patients who’ve experienced a cardiac event. Some women also feel upper back pressure, which feels like getting squeezed or having a rope tied around them. And because some women do not feel the usual pain in the chest that is the “telltale” sign a heart attack, they tend to ignore the signs and skip any medical help.
Two types of heart disease, called coronary microvascular disease (MVD) and broken heart syndrome, affect women more often than men. Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, can cause heart muscle failure caused by extreme emotional stress. It is often misdiagnosed as a heart attack because of certain similar symptoms. Unlike a heart attack however, this recently recognized heart condition shows no evidence of blocked heart arteries upon radiological examination, and patients tend to recover from it quickly.
Although older women are more prone to heart disease, women of all ages should be concerned about their heart health. Adopting an active lifestyle and healthy diet is one way to prevent heart disease or stop its progression. Health professionals recommend the following practices to lower a woman’s risk of heart disease and heart attack: - Exercise at least 2 hours and 30 minutes every week. - Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat milk and dairy products. Avoid foods high in cholesterol, sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars. - Give up smoking completely. - Minimize consumption of alcohol. Women who are overweight and with a family history of hypertension and heart conditions are especially advised to take the recommended preventive steps to preserve a healthy heart.