Please take the time to read the article attached. Women need to know their bodies and notice when something is different. Heart disease is very common for women and presents in a different manner than in men most often.
At age 42 I had symptoms that I now know were heart disease. Because I was young it was never questioned that heart disease might be an issue. For 5 years and many doctor visits I suffered with weight gain, shortness of breath, memory loss, irritable bowel and generalized fatigue. I finally had the good fortune of having a cold and it forced me to take time on the couch and rest and realize that I needed a cardiologist. Within a month it was determined that I had coronary heart disease. An angiogram, balloon stenting and a flood of oxygen and I felt remarkable.
Please ask me if you note symptoms that make you question what might be different and what you should do.
Heart Disease Facts: What Every Woman Should Know
ANNOUNCER: What's the leading cause of death for women? If you guessed cancer you'd be wrong. Very wrong.
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: I think that many women can quote the statistic that one in nine women will get breast cancer. But in fact, one in 27 women will die of breast cancer while one in 2.4 women will die of some type of cardiovascular disease.
ANNOUNCER: In fact, more women die of cardiovascular disease than the next 10 causes combined. It kills over 500,000 women every year, with symptoms that are underrecognized, misinterpreted and often silent.
MARIA PEREZ: I came home one afternoon in March of 1999 after working all day and-having a stomachache. Told my husband I didn't feel well, went and lay down. Went back to bed, 15 minutes later knew something was wrong but didn't know what, I just knew I had this terrible pain in my abdomen. Went to the emergency room; my husband's cardiologist happened to be walking through the emergency room when I walked in. He asked my husband what was wrong. My husband said, "It's not me, it's Maria."
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: Women are not thinking about heart disease, and that is one of the major problems. But when we look at surveys only 8% of women indicated that they perceived heart disease as their number one health risk.
MARIA PEREZ: I was 54 years of age. I run a business, I do a great deal of traveling. I had never known that this could be an issue.
ANNOUNCER: Most often heart disease is caused by blocked blood vessels, which can prevent the heart from pumping properly.
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: When we talk about the most common type of heart disease, it's coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease. And that's where there are blockages in the heart arteries that form and if they progress enough or if this little plaque or blockage ruptures, it can cause a heart attack or sudden death.
ANNOUNCER: Women should know that there is a wide range of symptoms. Recognizing them is critical.
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: The number one thing that women, and men, for that matter, need to know that most individuals do not have the "Hollywood" heart attack, where they clutch their chest and fall over and die.
The number one symptom that men and women experience is chest discomfort. But it doesn't have to be severe pain. It can be pressure that radiates up to the neck, maybe radiating into the back or shoulders or down the arm.
Shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, light-headedness, palpitations, or where the heart seems to be racing, nausea can be a particularly prominent symptom in women, and shortness of breath seems to be more prominent.
ANNOUNCER: The sooner people having a heart attack get treatment, the better.
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: We shouldn't be waiting for the crushing substernal chest pain and falling to the floor, that we really need to be looking at these other symptoms as potential heart attack symptoms, particularly if they're new and you're at risk. They should not be afraid to go to the emergency room. The worst thing that can happen is they're told they're okay. And if they are having a heart attack, then they will get proper early treatment, which is critical to save lives.
ANNOUNCER: So what can put women at risk?
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: The major risk factors for coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease, that is, where we have plaque building up in the arteries, for women, particularly younger women, the number one preventable risk factor is smoking. Because that is one of the more powerful risk factors, and in fact, for a given dose of cigarettes, women have a higher risk than men.
And then family history is important, and obviously that isn't something we can control too well. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, particularly high LDL cholesterol, or high triglycerides, or low HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol.
Sedentary lifestyle and obesity and, going hand in hand with that, is diabetes, which is where we don't metabolize our sugar properly, and the metabolic syndrome, which is a syndrome which we've known about, but has really come to the forefront as a risk factor for heart disease. And these are people with-women, predominantly, because more women than men have this-increased waist size compared to hip circumference, glucose intolerance, meaning their blood sugar is a little high, high blood pressure and a number of other things. And this dramatically raises the risk of heart disease.
ANNOUNCER: But there is a lot a woman can do to protect herself
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: There are some very simple things. I mean, one is to know their risks and to talk to their doctors if they don't. Two, don't smoke. Move more. The more you move, the healthier you're going to be. And look at your diet.
If you are over the age of 20, then you should know your cholesterol number. If you don't know your blood pressure, you should know it, and you also should know what it should be.
ANNOUNCER: A recent survey of women who have had a heart attack found that heart disease can damage the heart in more ways than one.
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: One of the things that we found from the survey that is borne out by my anecdotal experience is the high rate of depression after a diagnosis of heart attack or heart disease or a bypass operation.
And if undetected, this has significant effects on these women's ability to heal and get better. Because if they're depressed they're not going to want to exercise and eat right. They may not be motivated enough to get out of bed. If they're very anxious about their symptoms, that can be a paralyzing fear in a sense so that they don't do the things that they need to do.
MARIA PEREZ: You always have to realize that once you have had a serious heart problem, it's there for life. And I will be very honest. I think for those of us particularly who undergo open-heart surgery, which is extraordinarily traumatic and disfiguring, there is a sadness, there is a wistfulness. A part of you is gone.
ANNOUNCER: Women need to know that heart disease is a serious threat that can have long-lasting consequences.
SHARONNE HAYES, MD: I want women to know that it could be you. I think to know that it is the number one killer, and that you, your mother or your sister or your child could develop heart disease or could have heart disease and therefore that awareness of symptoms will be critical.