Women’s Health Suffers When Doctors Ignore Heart Disease Symptoms

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, many doctors are failing to give their female patients the kind of information and treatment they need for these disorders. Even when presented with symptoms of heart disease, all too often doctors fail to make the connection and offer appropriate interventions and treatment. When a woman is taken to a community hospital in the United States with symptoms of heart disease, often treatment given doesn’t follow the guidelines set out for these health problems. In contrast, a man who is admitted to hospital with the same symptoms will likely receive the following kinds of treatments:

  • Aspirin
  • Angioplasty procedures
  • Beta blockers
  • Medications to break up clots
  • Surgery to improve blood flow to the heart

The sad fact is that women who are admitted to hospital after suffering a STEMI (ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction), which is a serious heart attack, are more likely to die as a result than men are.

Doctors need to adopt a different mindset when it comes to treating heart disease in women. Instead of discounting the symptoms they see, medical personnel need to consider that if the symptoms point to heart disease, then they need to provide treatment for that condition.

This is not an impossible task for North American doctors; physicians in Israel have adopted a more aggressive policy when it comes to treating women for heart disease. As a result, the gap in mortality rates between men and women due to heart disease in that country has closed.

According to the American Heart Association, 455,000 women lost their lives due to heart disease in 2006. It’s disturbing to think that many of these fatalities could be prevented if the women were given more appropriate treatment.

Doctors Can Help to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease can be prevented if women are given the information they need to stay healthy. Doctors, who are on the front lines of health care, can and should be telling their female patients to take care of their health by doing the following:

  • Eating a balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly
  • Having their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked as part of their annual health checkup

If high cholesterol and/or blood pressure is detected, then the doctor can offer treatments for the condition. Medications may be prescribed, and the woman will need to follow up with her doctor on a regular basis to keep her condition monitored closely.

Educate Yourself About Heart Disease

The key to staying healthy is to take charge of your own health. Learn as much as you can about heart disease and the risk factors associated with this condition. When you visit your doctor for your healthcare needs, make a point of bringing up heart disease if he or she doesn’t address it.

Ask about what you can do to stay healthy, and follow your doctor’s suggestions. This advice is especially important if there is a family history of cardiovascular problems, since your risk goes up in that situation.

LDL and HDL Cholesterol

Cholesterol is another word for the fats contained in your blood. Not all cholesterol will have a negative effect on your health, though, and you need to know the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is what is known as “good” cholesterol. This substance helps to keep the levels of bad cholesterol down and can help to decrease your risk of developing heart disease.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the “bad” cholesterol you need to be wary of. This is the type that can build up in your arteries and cause them to become narrower over time.

Being Overweight Overworks Heart

Being overweight or obese does increase the likelihood that you will be diagnosed with heart disease during your lifetime. The risk does diminish if  you can get to a heart healthy weight, though. Following a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products and whole grains is a good place to start. There are no “good” or "bad" foods, and you can still have a treat on special occasions, so long as you eat healthy foods most of the time. Try eating well at least 80 percent of the time, and you can enjoy special foods at other times, too.

The Obesity Epidemic and Heart Disease

Levels of obesity in the United States have now reached epidemic proportions. In 2004, none other than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared obesity to be the number one health threat facing America.
This condition is responsible for over 400,000 deaths each year, and is reflected in the over $122 billion in costs to the economy.

Obesity affects not only the individual’s body, but also has a psychological effect. People who are obese tend to have lower self-esteem than people who are at or around a normal weight. Their self-esteem plummets as the numbers on the scale go up. They may fall into a depression.

The health consequences to the obese individual’s body should not be discounted, either. Being significantly overweight can lead to a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Obesity is not something that affects only adults, though. More than 15 percent of young people under the age of 18 can be classified as obese. This means that children are putting themselves at risk of developing these serious health conditions, and from a young age.

It may be too simple to blame these obesity figures on people simply putting too much food into their mouth. There are people living in developing countries who are clinically obese. You may be surprised to find that this condition also exists in places around the world where a significant portion of the population is malnourished.

An interesting theory contends that children who are born to mothers who are malnourished are predisposed in the womb to being obese. Not having enough to eat before birth may have an adverse effect on the fetus’ metabolism, in which it trains itself to conserve any fuel it ingests as a hedge against future periods of famine.

Cholesterol Fact – LDL is Bad

When  you and your doctor discuss your cholesterol level, do you understand what it means? Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is present in the blood. Not all cholesterol is considered to be bad for you. LDL cholesterol levels are the type that doctors monitor and is considered to be “bad cholesterol.” This is the type that can build up and actually block your arteries, leading to heart attacks. Less than 100 mg/dL is the level of LDL cholesterol you want to  have in your blood. In contrast, once the LDL cholesterol levels reach 160 mg/dL or higher, you have high cholesterol. Some types of foods and supplements lower LDL and leave good HDL cholesterol levels intact. Consider eating walnuts, cooking with more olive oil, consuming Metamucil and/or fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids) every day. These things will help lower your LDL cholesterol.

Adopt a Heart Healthy Diet

Did you know that the foods you choose to eat have a direct effect on your heart health? They certainly do! While you may be drawn to foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar, since they tend to be appealing, a better choice is to load up your plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Do include whole grains and low-fat dairy products in your daily eating plan. Your heart will definitely thank you for it, and if you decide in advance that you are on an adventure in healthy eating, you won’t find it boring to eat well.

What is a Heart Attack?

The term "heart attack" is one that we are all familiar with, but do you know what it means? A heart attack occurs when blood cannot reach the heart due to a blockage. The human heart operates like the other organs, in that it cannot function properly blood flow is impeded. Most people who suffer a heart attack have a buildup of plaque, which is a fatty substance, in their arteries. A blood clot can break away and block off the already-narrow arteries leading to the heart, with sometimes fatal results for the victim. We plan to discuss heart attacks at greater length in a future blog post.

Dietary Supplements for Cardiovascular Health

You may be trying to eat well, but it can be challenging to get all the nutrients your body needs to stay heart healthy from diet alone. There is a place for dietary supplements for the heart in your overall eating plan. Start by taking a multi-vitamin daily. You may be curious about using herbal remedies to help you get and stay healthy, but do educate yourself about these products before you decide to use them. Tell your doctor what (and how much) you are taking the next time you go for a visit; this is information that he or she needs to know. Believe it or not, if you have high cholesterol you can take Metamucil, a source of fiber, which has proven an effective means of lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Get Active for Optimal Heart Health

When you make a point of being physically active, you are taking one of the best steps to improve your overall health. Your heart is first and foremost a muscle, and it needs regular cardio exercise to get and stay strong. Other benefits of exercise include increased ability to deal with the stresses and strains that go with everyday life. Since exercise releases endorphins, which are the body’s own "feel good" hormones, you will have a more positive outlook after undertaking any kind of physical activity. Making exercise a part of your regular routine is a great way to overall good health! Even setting aside 30 minutes per day to walk, climb stairs, or swim will do more good than you can imagine.

5 Tips for Lowering Cholesterol

You do have the power to get your cholesterol numbers down, and putting these 5 tips for lowering your cholesterol into practice will help.

1. Eat less red meat.

Instead of picking up a lot of beef when you go to the grocery store, choose chicken or fish more often. Both of these two choices have less fat than beef and can be prepared in a number of tasty ways.

2. Cut back on saturated fat as much as possible.

What does this mean in practical terms? Well, you will need to switch to low-fat or skim milk, for starters. When you buy cheese, look for "light" versions as often as possible.

3. Fill up on fiber.

There are good reasons to add more fiber to your diet. Choosing whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals more often means that you will feel full for a longer period of time. You also get the benefit of lower cholesterol levels with time, since these foods are low in fat. If you decide to switch to whole wheat bread, watch the amount of butter or spread you are adding to it, though. The same advice goes for whole wheat pasta. You don’t want to blow the potential health benefits by combining it with a heavy cream sauce.

4. Get active.

Regular exercise will only help to lower cholesterol levels. You don’t need to plan to run a marathon next week to reap the health benefits of getting off the couch. Start by taking a brisk walk a few times a week and see how that feels.

Just when you were thinking that you weren’t able to enjoy life while trying to lower your cholesterol levels, here’s a bit of good news for you.

5. Drink red wine. A glass a day will help to lower your cholesterol.

Drinking to excess will not help you to become more heart-healthy, but enjoying a rich Bordeaux or Merlot can help to lessen your risk of developing heart disease. It also adds to the experience when you are having dinner, so feel free to indulge a little in the evening.