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Women's Health

Mercy Women's Care at St. Anne
3404 W. Sylvania Avenue
Toledo, OH 43623
419-407-1616

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2702 Navarre Avenue
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Oregon, OH 43616
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2213 Cherry Street
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419-251-4340

New Understanding of Heart Disease and Women

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Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in women older than 25. Women are less likely than men to develop heart disease before they’re 60 years old. But when they do develop the condition, women often do less well than men. In recent decades, deaths from heart disease have decreased, but that decrease has occurred mostly in men.

 

As more and more women are taking part in heart disease research, experts are learning more about the differences in the way heart disease affects men and women. Here are some of the more recent findings:

 

        When women who have chest pain are tested to see whether the arteries of their heart are blocked, they’re more likely than men with the same symptoms to have test results indicating that the arteries are clear. The question this poses is: is there another cause for the chest pain?

 

        Women who do have blockages in their arteries are generally older than men who learn that their arteries are blocked. They’re also more likely to be sicker by the time they have the artery blockages. High blood pressure and diabetes, which are common in these older patients, make surgery riskier. These women are more likely to have heart failure as well.

 

        Men tend to have better outcomes after bypass surgery and balloon angioplasty procedures. And women are more likely than men to experience more serious side effects from these procedures.

 

        Women are more likely to experience what’s been called “broken heart syndrome,” a temporary type of heart failure that’s the result of emotional shock or distress.

 

 

Microvascular disease may be a culprit

 

Researchers are beginning to suspect that a condition called microvascular disease may be causing some of the unexplained chest pain that women experience more often than men. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute conducted a study called the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation, or WISE, which was the research that revealed that the unexplained chest pain was related to blockages in the smaller blood vessels, not the larger ones. These blockages didn’t show up when patients had an angiogram, a test in which dye is injected into blood vessels to determine whether blockages exist.

 

Heart disease risk factors are not always equal for women and men

 

Researchers in the WISE study suspect that certain risk factors may be more dangerous for women than men, in terms of the development of heart disease. These include:

  • Metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol)
  • Stress and depression
  • Smoking
  • Low levels of estrogen before menopause

The message for women: know the risk factors—and treat them

 

If you have metabolic syndrome, work with your doctor to develop a plan of action to bring down your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. If you have an undue amount of stress or you suffer from depression, address those things too. Try to create a lifestyle that helps you learn to relax and enjoy life. (Read the current issue of our General Health E-Magazine about the way stress affects your health and what you can do about it. If you smoke, talking with your doctor about it might help you to quit.



Source:
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 6 February 2006; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute



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