Coronary Artery Disease-a gradual, subtle and silent threat to women due to a blockage of blood flow to their hearts is killing more women in the United States than ALL types of Cancer combined…
The latest data from the American Heart Association (AHA) indicates that cardiovascular disease causes one death EVERY MINUTE, among U.S. women: That’s 398,035 deaths yearly.
And we have seen this coming for years.
Still, the subtle symptoms of heart disease in women are often overlooked. The issue needs to be investigated, discussed and resolved; but it takes all of us, including you, to secure the same positive outcomes from heart attacks for women, as there are for men.
The biggest villain of all the heart conditions is Coronary Artery Disease.
- Also called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, it’s caused by a buildup of plaque (made of cholesterol, inflammatory cells, and calcium) that sticks to blood vessel walls. But many women — and too often their doctors — don’t recognize the symptoms of heart disease in women.
As a well-learned friend said: “Frankly, it’s time to do the same thing for heart health in women that we’ve done with breast cancer…”
- The Second Step is learning to recognize the symptoms
Heart Symptoms in Women vs. Men
Women can all too easily overlook the more subtle symptoms of a heart condition like atherosclerosis — including arm or back pain.
Often, the condition remains undiagnosed until after a heart attack or heart failure from blocked arteries, according to data from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Symptoms show up so differently in women than in men…
➡ In women, Coronary Artery Disease may imitate other common, less deadly ailments.
➡ A man, however, is more likely to feel the typical effects of angina (sharp chest pain). Women need to be looking out for other possible symptoms.
Women’s symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease can include:
- Feeling tightness in your jaw
- Upper back pain
- Upper arm pain
- Upper abdominal pain
- Throat pain
- Stomach pain
- Sudden weakness or fatigue
- The pain you’d feel with a pulled muscle
- Gut pains that might seem like simple indigestion
Many women are frequently or chronically tired, and could easily dismiss that. But it could be a sign of Coronary Artery Disease.
- The Third Step is to learn what you need to know about heart tests.
What You Need To Know About Heart Tests
If your doctor’s visit turns up a possible heart condition, be proactive and ask for a referral to a Cardiologist.
➡ Understand what testing is available to you. So, start with your primary care doctor then see a Cardiologist, then based on that, ask about the tests.
Getting the right tests just might put you on the path to avoiding a potentially fatal heart attack.
Heart tests have different benefits and health risks. Here are some of the heart tests that might be recommended and what they identify:
➡ Coronary Artery Disease Blood Test This sensitive genetic test may be considered to identify which genes are active.
It is done while you walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. This test can identify blood flow-limiting coronary artery disease.
:arrow: Do NOT be afraid that you won’t be able to stand the treadmill test.
Regardless of your weight, your smoking status, your exercise level, this is one of the most revealing tests for detecting heart problems. It sets the standard for all other tests.
➡ CT Coronary Calcium Scan: Also called the Agatston score, this heart scan shows areas where plaque has built up inside your blood vessels even before symptoms appear.
➡ CT Coronary Angiogram: Another heart scan, this is one that identifies narrowing of individual coronary arteries.
➡ Nuclear Stress Test: This combines an ECG, small amounts of intravenous radioactive dye, and heart scans that include radiation. This test can identify regions of the heart that have diminished blood flow during exercise or drug-induced stress.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know what the tests involve. According to Andrew Einstein, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New Your City, two questions you should always ask about your heart test are:
1. Is there a good clinical reason I’m getting this test?
2. Do you modify the test for each specific patient?
The answer to the first question should, of course, be yes. And Dr. Einstein points out that it’s important that some tests be adjusted to suit the person, because a woman may need lower radiation doses based on her weight, the size of her heart, or her age.
Both your referring physician and the doctor who actually does the tests should discuss the risks of radiation exposure with you, according to the American Heart Association.
➡ The best practice is to minimize your exposure to radiation, because you may be scheduled for several X-ray screening tests in a year by different doctors.
Please take this seriously: This is the Number One killer of women in our country. Protect yourself with the tools of knowledge by learning about your risks, and share your stories with other women.
➡ All women need to be educated, regardless of their socio-economic background, to make informed decisions about their own health.
Do you know that you or a woman you love could easily mistake the pain of Coronary Artery Disease for a pulled muscle?
➡ Join the conversation about heart disease, learn all you can and then, become your own advocate in the doctor’s office.
➡ Go to social media. Share what you learned with friends and family.
If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be there to take care of those we love, and that’s at the center of a woman’s heart.
When to Have the Heart-Health Conversation
➡ Take advantage of the opportunity to find out more about how your heart is working at your next primary doctor’s or Ob-Gyn appointment, or make an appointment to address your concerns.
You need to understand what your heart is telling you within the results of routine, but vital, heart-health tests like blood pressure.
When you start the conversation with your doctor:
➡ Tell them about any symptoms you’ve noticed that could point to heart disease.
➡ Bring up anything that’s bothering you, like indigestion, pain in the upper arm, back, or neck, or tightness in the jaw, shortness of breath, new moderate or extreme fatigue, etc.
Remember, women present (show symptoms) differently than men.
➡ Do not ever feel that you are wasting or taking up too much of the doctor’s time. Tell them about any symptoms that could point to heart disease.
➡ Bring up anything that’s bothering you, like indigestion, pain in the upper arm, back, or neck, or tightness in the jaw.
I suggest writing down the questions you want to ask before you go in. This is good advice not only for yourself but also for family members who may be getting ready for their annual doctor’s visit.
Be sure you speak to your mom and your girlfriends also about having this conversation with her physician.
The best way to get the most you can out of your visit is to be prepared.
➡ Take advantage of the education and tools that can help you understand your heart and signs of heart disease from reputable online heart-health resources, and share them with the women in your life.
If you don’t find the answers here among the menus on the right-hand side of each page these are the most reliable and recommended online information sites:
While you’re with your doctor, be sure to talk about how you may be able to cut your risk for heart disease.
➡ Important factors include a healthy diet, regular exercise, and eliminating any exposure to smoke — be it cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or secondhand smoke.
➡ While you’re at your doctor’s office, remember to check that you’re current on all your vaccines.
➡ If you’re a smoker, you may want to get the pneumonia vaccine. Pneumonia may cause serious complications for smokers.
A heart condition may put you at greater risk for infection and complications, which can be severe.
Your doctor can order your blood drawn and have titers [antibody levels] taken to find out if you need a measles booster or not.
The words “be proactive” are commonly tossed around, but for many women, it seems impossible. However, no matter your financial or living circumstances, you cannot change what you do not recognize.
And remember that I am always available to answer your questions if you need assistance. Simply click on the Get In Touch link at the top of the page, send in your question (s) or request and let me know if you prefer an email response or a phone call. There is NEVER a fee for this assistance. I want you to be healthy and safe.