Healthcare Roundup – February is Heart Healthy Month
January 31, 2010
What is the #1 killer of women in the United States?
A. lung Cancer
B. breast cancer
C. Heart disease
If you answered “C.” you are right.
Heart disease in women often goes unnoticed even in the medical setting. The typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack include: Crushing chest pain and pain radiating down the left arm or hand. However, women often present with “atypical symptoms.”
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These include: Nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, back pain, fatigue, sweating, and pain in the jaw or teeth area.
Other possible symptoms include: Heart palpitations and hot flashes.
The heart palpitations could also related to thyroid problems or changes in hormone levels in menopausal women. If you experience hot flashes while at rest, this may be hormonal. However, if you experience such symptoms while exercising or exerting yourself, this could be a sign of cardiac issues.
What are some risk factors for Heart Disease in Women?
• If you experienced Pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, or hypertension with your pregnancy, you may be at an increased risk for the development of heart disease.
• Smoking: This habit has been associated with over half of the diagnosed cases of heart disease in women. Even in smoking only 1.4 cigarettes a day, this has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. One study found that female smokers develop heart disease 19 years earlier than non-smoking females.
• Hypertension: This is a strong predictor of cardiovascular events in the near or distant future
• Obesity: 35 percent of the females in the United States are obese. According to research, females with a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 32kg/m2 had a greater risk of death due to cardiac disease than their leaner counterparts. This risk was seen in females that were not labeled as “obese” but were in the top level of “normal weight.”
Weight gain after the age of 18 was also a risk factor as well. For each 2 pound increase in weight gain, the risk of coronary problems increased by 1.5 percent. Waist circumference has a place in this as well. Women with a waist greater than 35 inches were at an increased risk for heart disease.
• Diabetes: Women appear to be more affected by diabetes in regards to cardiovascular risk than men. In several studies, out of 450,000 participants, the risk of death associated with coronary heart disease was 3.5 percent in females and 2.1 percent in men.
Even those individuals with impaired glucose levels (just below the cut-off for diagnosis of diabetes) were at an increased risk as well.
• Menopause: Most young women that are affected by heart disease have other risk factors. However, the fact that a woman is menopausal puts her into a risk category. Early natural menopause appears to put young women at risk as well.
• Family history: Especially if you have a first degree male relative under the age of 55 or female under the age of 65
• Elevated cholesterol, low HDL, high LDL
• Excess alcohol intake: Having more than 2 drinks a day increase the risk of hypertension. Some studies have shown that mild alcohol intake may have a protective mechanism in regards to the heart yet there is a possible increase in the risk of breast cancer with any alcohol intake.
• Low Bone Density: Low bone density with menopausal females may be a risk factor for heart disease. Some research has shown that with a decrease of 1 standard deviation in bone mineral density, this in turn demonstrates approximately a 43 percent increase in cardiovascular mortality. This may be due to the low amounts of estrogen in women after menopause.
How can I prevent the development of cardiovascular disease?
• Eat healthy. Females who ate more whole grains-having a fiber intake of 26 g/day, as well as several servings of fruits, vegetables, fish, and poultry had a lower risk of heart disease as compared to hosed who ate more red and processed meat, sweets, fried foods, and refined grains.
• Exercise: Moderate cardiovascular work-out for at least 30 minutes 5-7 days of the week. Park your car in the outer portion of the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and bike to the post office instead of driving your car.
• Stop smoking
• Weight loss if needed. Strive for a BMI of 18.5-24.9 and a waist circumference less than 35 inches.
• Stress management: Exercise, meditation, and coping mechanisms for stress will help
See your primary care provider. If you are over the age of 20, have your lipid levels checked, discuss with your provider the possible need for additional testing such as an EKG especially if you have several risk factors, blood pressure check, and other potential testing.
Remember you have only 1 heart, treat it well.
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