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.

Anger and Heart Disease Related

If you want to lower your risk of heart disease, learn how to control your temper. This is especially true for men. Males who are angry are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol to excess, and be overweight.

Being under stress actually speeds up the rate at which harmful plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries. A study of physicians in training found that participants who had a lot of hostility in their youth were more likely to die before the age of 50. That’s a good reason to find a healthy way to deal with stress and adopt a more laid-back approach to life.

Why Smoking Contributes to Heart Disease

Smoking, or being exposed to second-hand smoke, contributes to heart disease by making the heart work harder. It constricts blood vessels and contributes to a buildup of harmful plaque inside of them. When you smoke, you force your heart to pump harder to distribute blood throughout the body. Every drag from a cigarette introduces carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals into your body. Carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen you should be breathing in, making it more difficult for your body’s cells to the oxygen they need.

The good news is that if you are able to quit smoking for 12 months, your risk of developing heart disease drops by one-half. Within five years of quitting, you will have the same level of risk as someone who has never smoked.

Act Quickly on Signs of Stroke

If you start to experience the signs of stroke, such as dizziness, weakness or difficulty seeing, you need to get emergency medical care immediately. Most people who have these symptoms take a “wait and see” approach, which means they don’t get the prompt care they need. You may not be having a stroke (which would be good news), but you are not qualified to make that determination.

Stroke is the third-highest cause of death in the United States. (Heart disease and cancer are the top two.) It is responsible for 150,000 deaths each year and more than 700,000 cases annually. If you have already had a mini-stroke you are at a higher risk of having another, more serious one.

Menopause Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Studies have shown that women of childbearing years are protected from developing heart disease due to the presence of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen helps to protect women from heart disease by increasing the body’s production of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol decrease as well. Estrogen also helps to guard against thickening of the blood.

When a woman goes through menopause, estrogen production stops, and this protection from heart disease also ceases. Women who are at or close to menopausal age should discuss their risk of developing heart disease with their doctor to help them determine whether hormone replacement therapy is a reasonable option for them.

Heart Disease More Deadly for Women

Both men and women are at risk for developing heart disease, but women are more likely to die as a result. The chances of a woman dying of heart disease are approximately 10 percent higher than for men.

The symptoms of heart attack in women may not be the classic chest pain radiating down the arm that we are taught to watch out for. In women, the symptoms may be a lot more subtle. Pain the jaw or shoulders, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or cold sweats may be signs of a heart attack.

Feeling Loved Good for Heart Disease Prevention

Having a good relationship with your significant other not only feels good, but it can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Research has found that women with heart disease who said that they felt loved and supported by a partner tend to have less serious blockage of the arteries than those who did not have a good romantic relationship. The same relationship between a supportive partner and severity of heart disease symptoms was found in men.

When scientists at Yale University studied the coronary arteries of 119 people, they found that the people who reported that they felt loved had less severe blockages. The quality of the relationship was found to be more important than the number of relationships a person had. Interestingly enough, this finding was quite independent of other factors that determine the level of risk for heart disease, such as family history, level of exercise, smoking, and diet.

The results of a study conducted in 1992 were equally as interesting. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center considered the effect having someone you can confide in regularly has on heart disease. All the 1,400 people who participated had blocked coronary arteries. Five years later, the participants who were not married and did not have someone to talk to about personal matters were three times more likely to have died than those people with at least one person they could confide in.

Canadian research shows similar results. People who have close relationships (romantic or otherwise) with other people had a 50 percent lower risk of heart attack. The lack of support may mean that people at risk are less likely to get prompt treatment for symptoms and may be less likely to stick to the follow-up program suggested by their doctor.

People who are either married or have a close relationship with another person are more likely to take better care of themselves than people who are on their own. They are less likely to smoke and are more physically active.

Anxiety and stress levels tend to be lower for these people as well. Conversely, being involved in a relationship that is negative or full of stress doesn’t have these positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

If you already have a good relationship with a significant other, then do what you can to preserve it. Make a point of spending time together doing something that you both find enjoyable. Being physically active together is good for your heart and will help your relationship, too.

Find ways to communicate effectively about your needs and to resolve conflicts. It is probably unrealistic to strive for a conflict-free relationship, so you need to develop these skills to deal with the issues that will inevitably come up.

If you don’t have a significant other in your life, you can get support from a friend. Find someone that you can talk to about how your life is going and do the same for them. Your arteries will be much healthier for it.

Lower Heart Disease Risk with Grated Cheese

You can still include cheese in your diet if you want to lower your risk of heart disease. Switching to grated cheese instead of eating it in slices can help, according to the Food Standards Agency. The British Agency also suggests using a stronger-flavored cheese in your diet. That way, you can add flavor and texture to your meals without needing to use a lot of product to do so.

A heart-healthy diet can include the foods you enjoy. Get creative and try low-fat varieties of your favorite cheeses. Low-fat milk and yogurt and lean meats can all be part of a healthy eating plan when you are concerned about heart disease.

5 Diet Tips to Cut Heart Disease Risk

Your diet is a factor in your risk for developing heart disease. You can lower this risk by making a few simple changes. Don’t worry; eating healthy foods doesn’t mean that the food you eat will be boring or that you need to completely sacrifice taste for your health.

If you want to lower your risk of heart disease by changing your diet, start slowly. Incorporate one heart-healthy diet change at a time and get used to it before changing something else. Most people don’t like change at the best of times, and you want to start eating better permanently, not just for a few weeks, to improve your health.

Here are 5 simple diet tips that will cut your risk for heart disease:

1. Choose fish or poultry more often.

Yes, you can still have red meat. You need to get into the habit of trimming off visible fat and buying meat that has less marbling.

2. Take the skin off chicken before cooking it.

Chicken skin has a high fat content, and you can either buy it without skin or remove it yourself.

3. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Add fruit to your breakfast cereal or yogurt. Cut up carrots and celery sticks and have them in the refrigerator ready to eat. Put a bowl of fruit out in your kitchen so it is readily available when you are looking for a snack. Grate carrots and add them to soups and stews while cooking.

4. Read labels when grocery shopping and buy the lower-salt product.

We do need some salt in our diet to stay healthy, but most people consume way too much of it. Processed food can contain a lot of salt, so you will want to get in the habit of  buying the product with the lower amount of sodium in it.

5. Cut back on desserts and other sweets.

Dessert doesn’t necessarily need to be cakes and cookies. It can be a fresh fruit salad or some low-fat frozen yogurt. If you want to have something sweet occasionally, have a small portion and enjoy it. Then go back to making healthier choices most of the time.

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.