Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Heart Disease in Women

By Vivian A. Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Medicine Physician
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

The number one killer of women is heart disease. Yet when I talk to women, many cite breast cancer as their chief health concern. Here are the statistics: breast cancer kills 1 out of 36 women; heart disease kills 1 in 3. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all cancers put together. We need to increase awareness of heart disease as a major threat and promote research specifically for women’s heart disease.

When it comes to the heart, women are not just small men. Our hearts are different than men’s hearts in many ways. Men’s heart disease often presents with the “classic” heart attack: grabbing or severe pain in the center of the chest. Women also often feel chest discomfort if they are having a heart attack; however, they often get other symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or palpitations. In addition, a woman’s arteries may look different than a man’s. Women, more often than men, have a diffuse or mild blockage in the heart’s arteries. Therefore, on angiograms, a woman’s arteries may look normal. Yet, the arteries may still be diseased and not dilate properly to allow oxygen-rich blood to enter the healthy muscle cells.

Many women with chest discomfort are told that their symptoms are not from heart disease. Yet, studies researching women’s hearts from the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation reveal that when a woman has chest pain and mild or no blockage, her chance of dying from heart disease doubles and quadruples compared to a woman with no chest pain.

So what is the good news? We know from research that MOST HEART DISEASE CAN BE PREVENTED with a healthy lifestyle!

If you smoke, stop! A woman who smokes has six times the risk, twice that of a male smoker, of dying from heart disease compared to a non-smoker. You can get help to quit: check out NJ QUITS or try the app “Craving to Quit.”
Eat mostly a plant-based diet. Stop all soda, decrease added sugar and processed foods. Attend one of our nutrition lectures that are given throughout the year.
Increase your exercise. Sitting time is dangerous. A recent study of at least one million people found that those who sit more than three hours a day have a higher chance of dying from heart disease. The connections between the mind and heart are very powerful.
Reduce your stress. Be optimistic, surround yourself with good people, go out in nature, and learn to meditate. Find what brings you joy.
Get adequate sleep. Insomnia increases your risk for heart disease, obesity, arthritis.

Check out our website (www.MeridianIntegrativeMedicine.com) for more information on how you can get help with improving your health. And most importantly, know your body. If you think that something feels wrong, get help.

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