What’s the Real Heartbreaker? Cardiovascular Disease

Author: Rohan Wagle, M.D., F.A.C.C., Cardiology, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Katy

It may not come as a surprise that a leading cause of death among adults in the United States is cardiovascular disease. What may be surprising, however, is that women are twice as likely as men to die from a heart attack after being hospitalized.

Studies show that when questioned about cardiovascular disease, female respondents did not correctly identify the warning signs of a heart attack. Symptoms preceding a heart attack can last from a few days to a few weeks. Even more concerning is that many women don’t experience the same warning signs as men; heart attack symptoms in women are often more subtle and may attributed to less life-threatening conditions. This is distressing because early recognition may save lives and heart muscle functionality.

Warning signs of a heart attack for women may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden, unexplained fatigue
  • Generalized discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold sweats

A study published by the American College of Cardiology found “Women suffering a heart attack wait much longer than men to call emergency medical services … putting them at greater risk for adverse outcomes.” It is important to be an advocate for your health and act when abnormal symptoms start to occur.  

A silver lining is that some risk factors associated with heart disease are preventable, such as avoiding tobacco use, committing to physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a nutritious, healthy diet.

Other risk factors may be better managed by having recommended health screenings that include checking blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. Meeting with your physician for routine tests and exams is a significant step to help avoid life-threatening and preventable diseases like heart disease.