Women's Health :

More Women Affected by Heart Disease Than Men

Anna Lamy, Hernando Today, Brooksville, Fla

Ideal cardiovascular health means maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

More women than men die of cardiovascular disease each year, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Additionally, women are less likely to receive appropriate treatment after a heart attack, then men.

For women, generally the primary caregiver, personal health concerns are often put on hold as family and loved ones tend to take priority.

Due to this, improper diet, not enough exercise, and daily stresses become the norm, put themselves at high risk for developing health problems increasing the risk for heart attack at stroke.

More than 400,000 deaths for women in the U.S. are caused by cardiovascular disease each year, according to AHA.

Metabolic syndrome is a medical term used when a person has three of more risk factors which increases their risk to developing coronary artery disease (CAD), stroke, and type-2 diabetes, or other vascular diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Provided by the AHA, risk factors of metabolic syndrome include: the waist being greater than 35 inches; triglycerides higher than 150 mg/dL; HDL (good cholesterol) less than 50 mg/dL; blood pressure higher than 130/85 mm Hg; fasting blood glucose higher than 100 mg/dL.

Dr. Michael S. Fenster, M.D. interventional cardiologist with Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, advised women at risk can experience warning signs in many different ways.

"For women and men, the most common warning sign is a discomfort in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes. It may come and go, often in relation to exertion or stress. It can manifest as an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain," advised Fenster.

Sometimes the discomfort can be felt in one or both arms, as well as the back, neck, jaw or stomach, he added.

"Some women experience a shortness of breath, that may or may not include chest pain," Fenster said. "Additionally, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or feeling light-headed are possible. What is important to realize is that many women present without these 'classical' symptoms. These atypical symptoms may range from a general ill feeling to severe shortness of breath or abdominal pain."

Women who are at high risk for heart disease are those who have existing coronary artery disease, such as stents, bypass surgery, and/or history of heart attack, stroke. Additionally, blocked arteries in the legs, abdominal aortic aneurysm, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes are included in a person being at high risk, advised the AHA.

"Stroke warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, predominant to one side of the body," said Fenster.

Sudden severe headache without a known cause, being confused or having trouble speaking are also warning signs to stroke, he added.

"Some may experience sudden vision problems in one or both eyes, trouble walking which includes dizziness or loss of balance and coordination," Fenster said.

At risk women are those who currently smoke, have a poor diet, lack regular physical activity and cannot complete a treadmill exercise test, overweight (BMI over 25 kg/m2), family history of heart or vascular disease, high blood pressure, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, diabetes, delivering a pre-term infant, according to the AHA.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is considered having blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg; total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL and not on medicine for cholesterol; fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL and not on medicine for blood glucose; BMI less than 25 kg/m2; never smoked or quit for one year or more; performs 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week; eats a diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high-fiber foods, and fish (oily preferred) twice a week or more; limiting saturated fats, cholesterol, alcohol, sodium, sugar, and avoids trans-fatty acids, according to the AHA.

For women who are trying to lose weight, 60 to 90 minutes per day of moderate exercise, advises the AHA.

Cardiac rehabilitation or a physician-guided exercise program is advised for women with recent heart problems (heart attack, stroke, or other cardiac condition).

If you or someone you know begins to experience any or a combination of warning signs for heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association advises to call 9-1-1 immediately, as "every second counts".

Dr. Michael S. Fenster, M.D., interventional cardiologist with Hernando Heart Clinic located at 14540 Cortez Boulevard, Suite 119 in Brooksville. His office can be reached at (352) 597-3368.

This is a two part series, look next week in Hernando Today's Health & Fitness section, Thursday, for the second part in "Promoting Healthy Hearts in Women".

©2012 the Hernando Today (Brooksville, Fla.)

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