According to a new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), heart attacks in women can have different causes and symptoms than those in men.
Additionally they are more dangerous, and the AHA is trying to raise awareness about how to recognize and treat heart attacks in women, writes Kathleen Doheny for Philly.com.
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Recognize symptoms and seek treatment
According to Dr. Gregg Fonarow, professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, if women don’t recognize the symptoms they won’t seek treatment. “These delays in care contribute to higher mortality rates experienced by women, particularly younger women,” he said.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women around the world. The U.S. has seen improved survival rates since 1984, but women still die more often than men.
“I was inspired to write this [statement] as both my grandmothers died from heart attacks at age 60 and had presented with atypical [not typical] symptoms,” said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, chair of the statement writing group and director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at Ohio State University Medical Center.
Heart attacks – Women should keep an eye on risk factors
The statement reveals that plaque buildup in the arteries can be different in women and men, and high blood pressure puts women at greater risk of a heart attack than men. In young women, diabetes puts the risk of a heart attack five times higher than in young men.
Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom in both men and women, but females are more likely to suffer shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, nausea and vomiting. Black women are at higher risk than white women, and black and Hispanic women display more risk factors than white women. These factors include obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed that the statement was necessary. “It is time that both the medical community and women address these issues and understand that open communication and awareness are critical to changing these statistics,” she said.
Women need to be more aware of important numbers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) and waist circumference, said Mehta. “Take action to keep these numbers in the normal ranges,” she advised.
“Lead an active, healthy lifestyle and be accountable for your decisions,” she added. “This includes exercising on a regular basis, following a healthy diet and not smoking.”