Heart Disease: His and Hers

Heart disease is much more common in both women and men than any other cause of death. Because women experience more subtle symptoms than men their heart disease if ofter misdiagnosed. Both women and men need to pay attention to signals that their bodies give them. Both genders need to control risk factors equally.

Women and men share common risk factors for heart disease such as:

  • High cholesterol
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking.

The differences are in the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women and men.

Women’s Symptoms:

  • Angina-with less dramatic symptoms than men
  • Variant angina is likely to strike during sleep more commonly in women
  • Less crushing chest pressure and severe pain than men
  • Pressure
  • Indigestion
  • Shortness of Breath
  • General fatigue
  • Flu-like tiredness

Men’s Symptoms:

  • Angina
  • Cold sweats
  • Influenza-like symptoms
  • Crushing chest pressure
  • Severe chest pain

Women’s Diagnosis:

  • ECG stress tests are more likely to miss cardiovascular disease in women
  • Nuclear stress tests are more reliable for women
  • Coronary angiography misses micro-vascular disease, which is more common in women
  • Intravascular ultrasound is more likely to find arteries narrowed by atherosclerotic plague
  • Coronary flow reserve studies can show whether the microscopic vessels in the heart wall are delivering an adequate blood supply
  • Low blood levels of good cholesterol are a stronger predictor of heart disease in women than men
  • High levels of triglycerides are a particularly important risk factor in women..

Men’s Diagnosis:

  • ECG’s
  • Stress Tests are very effective
  • Coronary angiography is excellent at finding men’s blockages because they are usually in the major arteries

Women’s Treatment:

  • Low-dose aspirin treatment is not recommended for women until age 55, and then it is for stroke prevention and not heart disease
  • Alcohol has more serious effects on a woman’s heart and can hasten her trip to the emergency room
  • Women with micro-vascular disease are most often treated with medications and lifestyle changes
  • Angioplasty with stenting,
  • Coronary bypass surgery- Women are two to three times as likely to die following heart bypass surgery than men. Women ages between 40-59 are up to 4 times more likely to die than men the same age.

Men’s Treatment:

  • Low-dose aspirin therapy starts for men at about age 43 to reduce the risk of a heart attack
  • Angioplasty with stenting
  • Coronary by pass surgery

Lifestyle changes recommended for both Women and Men:

  • Lower Cholesterol through diet, exercise and medications
  • Controlling High Blood Pressure by diet and medications
  • Treatment for depression, if present
  • Exercise
  • Regular medical checkups
  • Cease Smoking
  • Limit Alcohol

Heart disease as the cause of death in women exceeds the total number of deaths for the next 16 most common causes of death. Because heart disease symptoms are less dramatic in women than men, women need to be pro-active in receiving treatment. Relatively minor symptoms such as being unusually tired, achy or short of breath need attention and medical care.