Updated: February 12, 2017

Healthy Lifestyle Series

In the 1960's it was a popular belief that women did not get heart disease.  As a result, women were left out of heart disease research. Thus, leading to development of treatment modality geared towards men. There was also the belief that women were protected by estrogen and only old women got heart disease.

Today, things are different.  Research has shown that men and women do not exhibit likely identical signs of a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, women are more like to show atypical symptoms of a heart attack than men. In their Scientific Statement released in Jan 2016,  they believe that women frequently have different underlying cause. For example, high blood pressure is more strongly associated with heart attack in women than men. If a young woman has diabetes her risk of heart disease is 4 to five times higher than a young man. The Association also found that there are racial differences. Black women have higher incidence of heart attacks in all age categories and young black women are more likely to die in hospital after a heart attack. . Black and Hispanic women have more heart related risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes at the time of their heart attack as compared to white Non-Hispanic women.

 Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US. Women are 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than cancer. It affects women of all ages. In addition, there are also special risks for young women because they are more likely to be on birth control pills and may be smokers. Heart disease risk  also increases with menopause.  Does menopause cause heart disease? Probably not.  But the risk factors that cause heart disease increase as women age. For example, blood pressure and cholesterol levels appear to increase post menopause.

Women rarely experience the typical crushing chest pain that men experience during a heart attack, Signs of a heart attack in women can be more vague and may be mistaken for something else.  Most women are attuned to their bodies and know when "something just does not feel right". So follow your gut feeling and make the call.

 Presently, there's good news.The mortality rate for heart disease has declined for both men and women because of awareness and treatment.  But, unfortunately heart attack morbidity rate has not declined for women under 50 years old.