This week, on Mother's Day, Dr. Kristin Newby, a cardiologist at Duke University, will be joining Dr. Joe Galati to discuss heart disease and women. There are differences, and you need to be aware of this in order to modify your risk factors, and act quickly if symptoms develop,
Heart disease is no longer considered a disease that affects just men. In the past, women usually received less aggressive treatment for heart disease and were not referred for diagnostic tests as often. As a result, when many women were finally diagnosed with heart disease, they usually had more advanced disease and their prognosis was poorer. We now know that cardiovascular diseases affect more women than men and are responsible for more than 40% of all deaths in American women.  Heart attack symptoms in women may be different from those experienced by men. Many women who have a heart attack do not know it. Women tend to feel a burning sensation in their upper abdomen and may experience lightheadedness, an upset stomach, and sweating. Because they may not feel the typical pain in the left half of their chest, many women may ignore symptoms that indicate they are having a heart attack.  Heart attacks are generally more severe in women than in men. In the first year after a heart attack, women are more than 50% more likely to die than men are. In the first 6 years after a heart attack, women are almost twice as likely to have a second heart attack.

What do you think would surprise women about heart disease?

Kristin Newby: Most women believe breast cancer is the biggest threat to their health. It’s not. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Despite all the efforts, women still underestimate the threat of heart disease. Also, the gender gap that exists in regard to heart disease can be very surprising.

What sort of gender gap?

Kristin Newby: Studies show that women are less likely to receive evidence-based therapies than men. We need to better understand what is underlying that phenomenon so we can be sure women are receiving treatments that we know work today. Women are less likely to receive intensive treatments for heart attack, even though they are more likely than men to die within a year of a first recognized heart attack. Women also develop heart disease later in life than men, so they may not worry about it as much as men do. Even the symptoms of heart attack in a woman are often not the classic ones. Instead, they may experience nausea, fatigue, or neck or shoulder pain.

What risk factors should women be aware of?

Kristin Newby: The risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, family history, and diabetes. But metabolic syndrome may be the most important marker for early detection of coronary disease in women. Metabolic syndrome often precedes type 2 diabetes. It is a collection of health risks that includes obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other abnormal blood work results that your doctor can measure.

Below are web sites of interest.
Go Red for Women-American Heart Association