Saturday, December 5, 2009

Study: Women's Heart Attacks Not Different. USA, LLC

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Women's heart attack symptoms are not much different than men's, a new study concludes. That's contrary to other research that found women's symptoms were often different. The study did not look at people having actual heart attacks. Rather, it looked at 305 people who had angioplasty. This procedure opens a blocked artery by inflating a tiny balloon inside the artery. While the balloon blocks the artery, people often have heart attack symptoms. Researchers asked people about their symptoms. Women reported chest pain, sweating, shortness of breath and pain in the left arm just as often as men. But they reported jaw, neck and throat pain more than men did. Researchers said women should tell doctors about all of their symptoms. They shouldn't wait to be asked about something specific. The study was presented at a heart conference. The Canadian Press wrote about it October 25.

What Is the Doctor's Reaction?

Years ago, heart attacks were considered mainly a disease of men. Studies of heart attacks generally were limited to men. Then doctors began to look more closely at the problem of heart disease in women.

After menopause, women are just as likely to develop heart disease as men. And, when they do, they are more likely to die from the disease.

In fact, most people don't realize that women in this country are 10 times more likely to die from heart disease or stroke than from breast cancer. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. And most women don't know this and therefore don't always pay attention to their symptoms or to factors that increase their risk.

Some studies suggested that women who are having a heart attack often have very different symptoms than men. One large study done by the National Institutes of Health suggested that many women with heart attacks (unlike men) never had chest pain. They found that women's symptoms often included:


Shortness of breath

Unusual fatigue

Sleep disturbances

This new study suggests that most women may have the same warning signals of heart attacks as men do. These include sudden discomfort or pain in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder or back. There may be pain or tingling down the left arm. This may be accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, fear, anxiety and "indigestion."

The study asked men and women who were having a heart procedure called angioplasty about their symptoms. They did not actually study people who were having heart attacks. So the results must be interpreted cautiously.

There are differences, however, between men and women with heart disease. Women do seem to describe their pain differently. And they are more likely to deny their chest pain. Doctors need to understand these differences. It is important not to miss the warning signs of heart disease.

What Changes Can I Make Now?

Certain factors that increase the risk of heart disease cannot be changed. They include older age and family history of heart disease. But other factors, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, can be modified.

Women, like men, should adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce their chances of getting heart disease. By controlling risk factors today, you may prevent or delay the development of heart disease in the future.

Learn your risk of heart disease. Make sure you understand ways you can reduce these risks.

What can you do?

Don't smoke. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help in quitting.

Eat a heart-healthy diet. This includes foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Make sure to eat five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Even small losses can help reduce your risk.

Exercise every day.

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol measured to see if you need treatment.

Make sure your blood pressure stays in the recommended range.

Limit how much alcohol you drink. More than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men can increase your risk of heart disease.

Be sure to take any medicines your doctor has prescribed for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

If you are considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for symptoms of menopause, talk with your doctor. Heart attack and stroke risk appears to increase in the first five years after women begin HRT. You may want to try other treatment options.

Get emergency help immediately for any symptoms you think might be from a heart attack. Remember, heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person. Heart attacks may begin with mild or subtle symptoms, such as mild chest pain or discomfort. Don't ignore your symptoms.

What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?

Clearly much more work is needed to better understand heart disease in women. Do women really have the same symptoms of a heart attack as men do? Should we be asking about other common symptoms?

Can we reduce women's risk of developing heart disease by better identifying risk factors and ways to modify them? Can better understanding of women's symptoms reduce the death rate from heart disease? And will others confirm the findings in this study?

All these questions will need to be addressed in future studies. More information will enable us to better educate women about heart disease and hopefully reduce the risks.

Source Citation
"Study: Women's Heart Attacks Not Different." Harvard Reviews of Health News. Harvard Health Publications Group, 2009. Academic OneFile. Web. 5 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A210654988

Disclaimer:This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

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