Is Heart Disease a Top Cause of Death Among Women?
Did you know that heart disease is the top cause of death among women in the United States? About 1 in every 5 female deaths are linked to heart disease. Sadly, a number of women are not aware of the signs of heart problems.
Women have different symptoms compared to men when they suffer a heart attack. Chest discomfort is quite common, however, they may experience other symptoms that are not usually associated with heart attacks; some of which are nausea, shortness of breath, or dizziness.
Other symptoms are:
- chest pain
- breaking out into a cold sweat
shortness of breath with or without chest pain
- pain or discomfort in the jaw, back, stomach, or arms
Causes of Heart Disease in Women
Here are some of the risk factors for heart disease among women:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- sedentary lifestyle
- family history
- cigarette smoking
Fortunately, there are proactive measures that women can take to help reduce their risk of heart disease:
- Manage stress
Know your family history
- Stop smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or stop if you can
- Eat a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains — and low in cholesterol, salt, saturated fats, and added sugars
- Practice the ABC of heart health:
- Appropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it
- Blood pressure control
- Cholesterol management
Types of Heart Disease
Heart disease is a general term used to describe various abnormal conditions of the heart and blood vessels; some of which are:
- peripheral artery disease (blockages in the blood vessels in the arms or legs)
- problems with the heart’s rhythm (arrhythmia)
- coronary artery disease (blockages in the blood vessels around the heart)
- problems with the heart’s muscles or valves (valvular heart disease)
- congestive heart failure (problem with the pumping or relaxation functions of the heart muscle)
These conditions may develop over time or may occur as a result of abnormal formation of the heart before birth.
Diagnosing Heart Disease
To diagnose heart disease, a doctor may ask some questions about the patient`s personal and family medical history. They’ll also need to know their symptoms, when they started, and how critical they are. They’ll also need to know about their lifestyle.
There are blood tests that can help a doctor discover the risk for the patient`s heart disease. The most common test is a lipid profile, which measures cholesterol and triglycerides.
The symptoms and patient`s history may call for some other tests to check:
- liver function
- thyroid function
- blood cell counts
- kidney function
- inflammation levels
- sodium and potassium levels
There are some other tests such as:
Stress test to see how well your heart performs under physical stress. During this test, you’ll exercise while wearing equipment to measure your heart’s electrical signals and your blood pressure. It can predict whether you have blockages that may be limiting blood flow to your heart when you exercise.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure electrical activity in the heart. This helps a doctor discover issues with the heart rhythm.
- An echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, looks at the heart function, structure, and performance of the heart valves.
- Ankle-brachial index, which is the ratio of the blood pressure in the arms and legs.
- Coronary CTA, a specialized CT scan that looks at the blood vessels around the heart to see if it has blockages.
- Ultrasound of carotid arteries in the neck to look for stroke risk.
A doctor might also suggest a continuous EKG or ambulatory arrhythmia monitor, which requires the patient to wear a device that constantly records their heart’s electrical signals. Depending on their symptoms, they might wear this device for some days or a few weeks.
In some cases, the aforementioned tests may be inconclusive, so there may be a need for more invasive tests to diagnose heart disease. Some of these tests are:
- Implantable loop recorder, an arrhythmia monitor implanted under the skin that discloses the causes of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
- Cardiac catheterization, that shows if the arteries are blocked and shows how well the heart functions.
How to Prevent Heart Disease
There are various risk factors for heart disease, some of which are genetics, among other biological factors, as well as lifestyle factors. Although you may not be able to completely eliminate your risk for heart disease, however, you can reduce it. Here`s how:
- Check your blood pressure checked regularly. If it’s high, speak with your doctor, who may recommend medications and lifestyle changes.
- Stop smoking. You may speak with your doctor to create a smoking cessation plan that’s right for you.
- Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day.
- Manage stress levels.
- Check your cholesterol levels.
- If you are at risk of diabetes, check your blood sugar regularly and speak with your doctor.
- If you do have diabetes, keep blood sugar under control.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
- Seek treatment for sleep apnea if you have it.
- Exercise regularly.
- If you’ve suffered a heart attack, talk to your doctor.
Treatment Options for Heart Disease
Here`s a technique that`s adopted when medications can’t control uneven heart rhythm. It puts patients to sleep and sends an electrical shock to their chest to triggers their heart’s regular rhythm.
When one knows the causes of their heart disease, it`s easier to deal with it by adjusting. The necessary adjustments may be eating healthy diets, exercising regularly, or to stop smoking. Lifestyle changes particularly lower the risk of heart attack and strokes.
There are medications used for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Some of them prevent blood clots, while others control an irregular heartbeat. Some of these drugs are beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers, digoxin (Digitek, digoxin, Lanoxin), adenosine (adenoid), atropine (atropine), sodium channel blockers, and potassium channel blockers.
This helps sufferers relax their body by affecting their vagus nerves, and as a result, control their heartbeat
Some Heart-Friendly Foods
- Low-fat yogurt
- Sweet potatoes
- Green tea
- Black beans
- Red wine and resveratrol
- Olive oil
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fish oil
- Dark chocolate
Some Heart Facts
- The Greek Philosopher, Plato, theorized that reasoning originated with the brain, but that passions originated in the ‘fiery’ heart.
- The walls of the heart’s left atrium are three times thicker than the right atrium.
- Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death all over the world.
- It takes about 45 seconds for blood to circulate from the heart to other parts of the body.
- The human heart is not as ‘heart-shaped’ as that of a cow.
- The first heart pacemakers plugged into wall sockets.
- Every day, the human heart creates enough energy to drive a truck for 20 miles.
Now that you Know…
Heart attacks are usually a medical emergency and it`s best if medical help is available immediately. If you notice that someone around you has some symptoms of heart attack, call for help immediately. Some of the signs are fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, respiratory difficulty, and pain in the upper part of the body. Studies show that emergency treatment saves over 90% of the lives of people who suffer a heart attack.