Medically Reviewed by Anne H. Everman, MD
Until early in the 21st Century, one in three women were dying of heart disease. They went to the doctor later, were sicker and were more likely to die than men.
“The more you know about heart disease, the better your chances of seeking treatment early,” says McLeod Cardiologist Anne Everman, MD.
Here is a summary of Dr. Everman’s comments:
Heart disease is basically damage to the heart arteries, leading to a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle and can result in damage to the muscle. It’s caused by a process of plaque buildup. Early in its development, the disease is silent.
Women present differently than men. Women present later in their disease process than men. So, they’re sicker. Women are less likely to survive their first heart attack than men and a lot of the procedures and medicine used in men don’t result in as good an outcome in women. Research is uncovering actual biological medical and social reasons as the basis for these differences. In one study, they asked a number of women what was the leading cause of death and 50% of them answered correctly — heart disease. But only 15% of the women surveyed had any concern about it being a risk to them personally. That’s because you usually see heart attacks in women, who are in their 60s or 70s. Women, who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, are more worried about breast cancer or other illnesses. They’re not concerned about heart disease, because they consider it an older person’s disease even though the start of heart disease can be as early in your 20s. In 2002, about one in three women were dying from heart disease, prompting the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute started an initiative called “The Heart Truth.”
Their main message was prevention — eat well, healthy physical lifestyle, live smoke free and know your numbers. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. It’s one of the most preventable causes of sickness and death. About 80% of heart disease is preventable. Some women present with sudden cardiac death from a heart attack before any symptoms are discovered. That’s why prevention is what we focus on. We may yet have time or the opportunity to respond to symptoms that might slowly progress over time.