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More About Women and Heart Health


In case I haven't driven it home enough this month, I want to share some more important information that may save your life, or the life of someone you love. 

Some not so well known facts

  • heart disease kills more people than all cancers combined
  • more women than men die from a first heart attack
  • we are less likely to get the treatment we need for heart disease
  • women of color are at higher risk of developing heart disease and receiving inadequate treatment than Caucasian women
  • we may have different symptoms than men and may not recognize a cardiac problem when it occurs

Women are not just men with lady parts

Women, as we age, are as likely as men to develop heart disease. Unfortunately, most of the medical information is based on studies done primarily on men. Treatment options are based on how men respond to them but women often do not have the same response to treatment as men . We are not just smaller versions of men. We are very different physiologically and therefore may find that treatment options don't work for us the same way.

Women are also more likely to die from their first heart attack than men are. This is for a few reasons. First, the symptoms may be vague or may resemble another condition like indigestion, stress, fatigue, to name a few. Studies show that many women who suffer heart attacks had no prior symptoms.

Minority women are at even higher risk than Caucasian women, also for a few reasons. If they live in an economically challenged environment, they may have little to no access to quality healthcare. If they are the sole caregiver to their family, they may ignore symptoms until it's too late. Their risk factors are often higher also due to cultural norms such as traditional food choices and larger body types.

Women often do not have the classic heart attack symptoms

Because we don't know any better, we often expect the following symptoms to be present during a cardiac event.

  • extreme pressure
  • pain in the chest, jaw and/or arm
  • shortness of breath
  • profuse sweating
  • loss of consciousness

A cardiac event is often mischaracterized as something else by not only the patient but also the medical community. If a young, fit woman shows up in the ER presenting with symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, vague pressure or pain in the upper body, she will very possibly be sent home with a prescription for anti-anxiety meds or told to minimize the stress in her life.

Some of the symptoms women should know

  • extreme, unexplained fatigue
  • unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • pain between the shoulder blades
  • burning or tingling across the upper chest
  • pain or heaviness in either arm
  • jaw pain or pressure
  • dizziness or disorientation
  • slurred speech
One thing is for certain. We must all be able to advocate for ourselves or have someone advocate on our behalf. If you feel like your doctor isn't listening to you, get another doctor. The medical community has been classically trained on the male model of the cardiac patient. We need to participate in the conversation and we also need to be included in the clinical trials. They don't even use female mice when they perform the testing because the males are less expensive and they use the females for reproduction.
The bottom line is...you know your body and if you think something is wrong, it probably is. Don't allow yourself to be dismissed. You deserve to be heard and taken seriously. Your life may depend on it.

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As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who are at risk for a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar.  If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.

 

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