Heart Disease & Women

Heart Disease Continues to Threaten the Lives of Women Worldwide

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Every minute, a mother, sister, daughter or friend dies of heart disease. Heart disease remains the largest single cause of death worldwide for women age 20 and older. In fact, six times as many women die of cardiovascular disease than breast cancer, according to the Women’s Heart Foundation.

Experts at the Women’s Cardiovascular Center at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute have identified a number of issues and risk factors that make heart disease especially dangerous to women, including:

  • Unique symptoms: The heart attack experience is dramatically different in women compared to men. Instead of the crushing chest pain men typically experience, women often report shortness of breath, sleep disturbances, nausea, and pain or discomfort in the abdominals, neck and shoulders. Some women may wrongly attribute these symptoms to a panic disorder, stress/anxiety or age.
  • Diagnosis and treatment: Coronary arteries are smaller in women, which makes testing and treatment more difficult. Often, the expertise of a specialty medical institute, like UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, is needed for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
  • Surgical complications: Women tend to have more complications than men after heart surgery.
  • Awareness: In a 2003 survey from the American Heart Association, about half of the women interviewed knew that heart disease was the leading cause of death in women. However, only 13 percent considered it a serious personal health risk.

Cardiac Risks Unique to Women

While some heart disease risk factors are common to both men and women, the risks for women are often even more dangerous. Consider the following examples from Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

  • Blood lipids: Blood cholesterol levels tend to rise after menopause.
  • Tobacco: Heart attack is twice as likely in female smokers compared to men who smoke.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease for both men and women, but the risk is higher for women.
  • Menopause and pregnancy: During these stages, hormonal changes can increase the risk for cardiac problems.

Women also have a greater lifetime risk for developing cardiovascular disease if they have a history of:

Personalized Treatment Plans Include Multiple Therapies

At the Women’s Cardiovascular Center, our expert team develops an individualized treatment plan for each patient that is based on age, risk factors, symptoms and test results. Treatment strategies may include medication, noninvasive intervention, surgery and lifestyle changes.

We offer a variety of specialized diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, including:

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