WOMEN AND HEART DISEASE
Naomi Johnson once wrote ‘The strength of a woman is in her kind-hearted ways’ but how do their hearts differ from men’s.
What kind of heart does a woman have?
5 things to know about women and heart disease
- Women’s arteries are smaller than men’s. While male hormones enlarge the blood vessels women’s hormones make them smaller. Because they are smaller they need less plaque to form a blockage. Smaller blood vessels may be behind other vascular symptoms such as migraines and inflammatory diseases.
- Chest pain is the most common sign of heart attack. However in women they may experience different signs; epigastric pain, malaise, severe fatigue, shortness of breath, back pain, left arm pain or jaw pain.
- Broken heart syndrome: women are more likely to suffer from broken heart syndrome. This occurs when you experience a major stress and it causes temporary damage to the pump of the heart. It is thought to be related to a surge in adrenaline. It may occur in response to an unexpected loss of a family member, a job loss or another significant stress. Most people make a full cardiac recovery but will need help dealing with the stressor.
- Menopause: Low levels of oestrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels. Hormone replacement therapy manages symptoms only. It does not affect your risk of heart disease.
- A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor of heart disease. As a group women are less active than men.
- Smoking has a greater risk factor in women.
- If you had high blood pressure during your pregnancy or gestational diabetes then you are predisposed to these conditions later in life. These are significant risk factors of heart disease.