Heart Disease in Women
Coronary heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States today. In fact, one in every four women dies from heart disease. While a great deal of publicity is devoted to various cancers that women face, heart disease in women is a far greater, far more serious problem.
Coronary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries. Plaque, made of fat, cholesterol and calcium, can harden over time, reducing the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain, known as angina. If the plaque should rupture, a blood clot can form, completely blocking the flow of blood to the heart, and causing a heart attack. In addition, more women than men face the risk of coronary microvascular disease, as lower estrogen levels later in life poses problems for the smaller blood vessels.
It is an unfortunate statistic that heart disease in women causes more deaths annually than heart disease in men. One of the difficulties is that women often experience heart attack symptoms different than men. The most common symptom of a heart attack in women is chest discomfort, but many women experience a heart attack without any chest pain. Instead, heart disease in women, when it leads to a heart attack, presents symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or dizziness. Since these symptoms are different than “classic” heart attack signs, many women do not arrive at the hospital until after damage has been done to the heart muscle.