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Essential Differences

Women and cardiac disease

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Essential Differences

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women over 40. Women are also less likely to survive heart attacks (acute myocardial infarction) than men, but why?

Think of a heart disease victim and you will probably conjure up the image of a middle-aged man who is overweight and burdened by a heavy workload and high stress level. Though this is the stereotypical view, the facts tell a different story.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women over 40. Women are also less likely to survive heart attacks (acute myocardial infarction) than men, but why?

The number one reason is that many women are not aware that the symptoms of a heart attack differ between men and women, and often don’t recognize the symptoms when they occur.

Delayed Treatment

There are not only differences between how men and women experience heart attacks but also between how they respond. Often women delay seeking treatment because they don’t realize that they are having a heart attack.

Some women have even found that their doctors have failed to recognize these atypical symptoms. That’s why it’s important to insist that your doctor administer an ECG or blood enzyme test.

Further, women generally tend to be ten years older than men when they have a heart attack. This means that they are more likely to have other conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, which makes rapid treatment even more vital.

Post Heart Attack Anxiety

Anxiety is the most usual psychological response to a heart attack, but once again the sexes do not suffer equally. Studies show that women are far more likely to suffer higher anxiety levels after a heart attack than men.

The effect of anxiety on a patient’s survival after a heart attack is of vital importance; patients with a higher level of anxiety have been shown to have higher levels of complications in the hospital, such as second heart attacks, blood vessel blockages, and irregular heartbeat.

Prevention

Several measures can be taken to reduce your risk of heart attack.

  • Follow a diet low in saturated fat (7 percent daily amount); low in trans fat (partially hydrogenated fats such as margarine or shortening); and high in fibre, whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, and folate-rich foods.
  • Exercise for 30 to 40 minutes three to five times per week.
  • Quit smoking.

Of course, education is always the best prevention of all.

Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women

Though we most commonly associate a heart attack with chest pain, women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s. In fact, one in four heart attacks produces no symptoms at all.

The absence of pain, however, does not mean the absence of damage. If chest pain is present for women, it is usually in the centre of the chest and is accompanied by pain in the back, neck, or jaw.

Women may also experience flu-like symptoms, specifically nausea, clamminess, or cold sweats.

Unexplained fatigue, anxiety, sleep disturbances, weakness in the arms, and loss of appetite are also symptoms, but they are less commonly known. Women may experience these symptoms on a daily basis up to a month before the actual heart attack.

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