February is when the American Heart Association promotes their Go Red For Women Campaign. Why is it so important to differentiate between heart and stroke risks for women and men? It’s unfortunate, but women’s heart attack and stroke episodes are on the rise and women often overlook the signs and symptoms that are plaguing them day in and day out.
Heart Disease is the number one killer of women, taking 1 out of 3 women’s lives each year. With so much focus on other diseases that affect females, like breast cancer and autoimmune diseases, heart disease is often overlooked and underestimated. One woman dies every minute of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is the narrowing of the arteries over time, due to a build-up of plaque that can in some cases cause a complete blockage of the blood vessels or coronary arteries. The signs for women are often different than the symptoms commonly associated with men at risk of Coronary Artery Disease, or a heart attack. For women, the signs are usually excessive sweating, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain in the jaw, shoulder, upper back, neck and the abdomen.
Although Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is down overall, for women it’s escalating quickly. Many factors play a role in CADs affecting women; a leading culprit is hormonal changes. When hormones are out of balance, additional factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and weight gain start to take place. All of these symptoms contribute to CAD.
Linking hormonal changes to the increase in women developing heart disease are also marked by risk factors such as having had gestational hypertension or gestational diabetes. Along with menopause and the related hormonal fluctuations,
eating a diet high in saturated fats, having uncontrolled hypertension or high cholesterol, being overweight, mental anxiety or unresolved stress, and smoking or previously smoking all play a considerable role in CAD.
Keeping Track of Your Numbers Could Save Your Life
• Blood Sugar
• Body Mass Index (BMI)
• Weight and Waist fluctuations
• Blood Pressure
Additionally, women tend to have plaque build-up and blockages in their smaller vessels, where men tend to have those issues in the larger arteries. These are often difficult to diagnose. These small vessels are known as microvascular, and therefore many women may actually be experiencing the effects of MVD, Microvascular Disease. MVD is now thought to affect approximately 3 million women with Coronary Artery Disease.
There are additional tests to check the microvascular system in women for weakening, damage, and blockages. These minimally invasive tests can determine if the microvascular structures are damaged; these procedures are typically done through duplex ultrasound or pulse wave velocity.
Women can be treated successfully if CAD or MVD is caught early. Usually keeping weight down with a healthy diet, keeping the heart muscle strong and oxygen-rich blood flowing through cardiovascular exercise are helpful, along with medications like ACE inhibitors, alpha-beta blockers, and cholesterol-lipid lowering drugs.
In addition to the testing mentioned above, there are specific procedures and screenings that your physician can provide to decipher how healthy your heart and arteries are; these include blood tests, stress tests, EKG’s, Holter monitors, vascular ultrasounds, and scans.
At Cardiac Care Group, they take your symptoms seriously and are prepared to see you and to discuss your conditions. They specialize in providing a wide range of services that focus on the prevention, prompt diagnosis and state-of-the-art treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Joseph Freedman MD, MBA
Dr. Freedman brings many years of experience as a cutting edge cardiologist specializing in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of all cardiac disease. He trained at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, continually ranked #1 in Cardiovascular Care, where he focused on
cardiac imaging. He achieved five board certifications in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Comprehensive Adult ECHO, Nuclear Cardiology and Cardiac CT. During his tenure as the lead noninvasive cardiologist at Florida Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale, he helped lead the hospital to achieve Level 5 chest pain certification, the highest designation of cardiac excellence.
He has spoken on national health care radio programs and has appeared on local news, highlighting the latest in cardiovascular care. Dr. Freedman prides himself on being an advocate for the patient. Every patient is unique, and he works carefully with leading local and national experts to make sure patients receive the best specialty procedural care possible for that particular case. Dr. Freedman has done research in cardiac MRI studies of the heart, in nuclear scanning, and has participated in the research trials of several leading cholesterol-lowering drugs. Dr. Freedman also has extensive experience in pulmonary hypertension and ran a large clinic in Broward County for these specific and often undiagnosed patients. Dr. Freedman speaks Spanish as well.
Cardiac Care Group
3208 Chiquita Blvd S., Suite 110
Cape Coral, FL 33914
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.