Why Prevention Is So Important for Women

67% of women who die from a heart attack have no previous symptom of the disease.

Today cardiologists understand that men and women have different symptoms and unique treatment guidelines. Women’s heart health hospitals are gaining a foothold across the country.

However, for decades, coronary artery disease (CAD)and ischemic heart disease research was done almost exclusively on men. Well intentioned though they were, scientists wrongly assumed both sexes experience heart disease in the same way. This created a medical legacy that still remains with us. Women with heart disease are faced with a set of diagnostic methods, medications and surgical treatments that are geared to men. Simply put, modern medicine is not the support system for them that it is for their male counterparts. (Read article by cardiologist.)

  • A high percentage of women polled did not know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in women. While it has decreased for men, it continues to increase for women.
  • Women’s symptoms are more varied and complex. (Watch video: Go-Red spokesperson highlights heart attack symptoms.) Women with atypical symptoms delay seeking medical attention and even if they do, the diagnosis may be missed. ECG stress tests (treadmill) are more likely to miss cardiovascular disease in women. For these and other reasons, women tend to be under diagnosed.
  • Women are likely to experience heart disease at an older and more vulnerable age when they also may be dealing with additional health issues.
  • Diabetes, smoking, high triglycerides, depression, chronic insomnia and even hypertension are serious common factors that increase risk of CHD for women.
  • It has been commonly assumed that women are protected from heart disease by hormones. Even though women under 50 are much less likely to have heart disease than their male counterparts, should they suffer a heart attack, they are more likely to die.
  • Women are less apt to have atherosclerosis in one of the three main arteries. In women, plaque build-up tends to spread out more smoothly or occur in the smaller vessels surrounding the heart. For this reason, angiograms, the gold standard diagnostic tool for atherosclerosis, do not work well for women and treatments like angioplasty, stents and bypass surgery are less helpful for women than men.

It is true for everyone that cardiovascular disease should be prevented. But women in particular need to be aggressive about living a healthy lifestyle. They need to be proactive and view CVD as something to be countered, not cured. The American Heart Association’s preferred approach is to reduce the risk factors that would lead to cardiac events and mortality, rather than waiting for an onset that can be clinically diagnosed. In 2013, the AHA stated that the TM technique was the only meditation that significantly reduces high blood pressure.

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