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Weight-Loss Software > Heart Problems Women

Heart Problems Women Experience

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

The heart problems women experience differ from men's, but are just as important. Although surveys show that women fear breast cancer more than heart disease, the latter disease kills six times as many women as all cancers combined. Heart problems also kill just as many women as men

Why, then, do people view heart problems as a male phenomenon? For the most part, it's because heart problems women develop tend to show up a decade later than in men. Instead of keeling over in their fifties or sixties, women first exhibit problems in their sixties or seventies.

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Besides appearing later than men's, the heart problems women experience differ in three ways:

1. Cause. In addition to overweight and inactivity (two leading causes in men), women's heart problems may stem from a drop in estrogen levels after menopause.

2. Kind. Whereas men tend to develop blockages in the heart's main arteries, women often have blockages in smaller vessels.

3. Symptoms. Although the chief symptom of heart attack in women—chest pain—is the same as in men, women are more likely to exhibit secondary symptoms such as nausea and vomiting; profuse sweating; pain in the arms, upper back, jaw, or teeth; dizziness; extreme fatigue; and pallor. Some victims feel no chest pain at all.

When Heart Problems Strike

Obviously, if you exhibit any of the signs listed above, emergency help is critical. Don't drive to the emergency room—call 911. Meanwhile, take an aspirin to thin the blood and minimize damage from clots.

In case of cardiac arrest, immediately begin hands-only CPR.

Preventing the Heart Problems Women Experience

The best preventive steps are the same as for men:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. To see your lowest-risk weight range, click here.

  • Eat wisely. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, fish, low-fat dairy foods, and whole grains. Decrease your intake of meat, high-fat dairy, and sodium (especially by avoiding canned and dried foods, snack foods, and processed meats). Over time, these changes can greatly diminsh your risk of heart problems women experience.

  • Take a daily aspirin. This has been shown to significantly lower the risk of having a heart attack. (To prevent stomach bleeding, use 81-milligram "baby" aspirin instead of regular 325-milligram aspirin.)

  • Be active. Try to average at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming. This greatly lowers heart-attack risk. It will also help you lose weight.

  • Get medical tests. Especially if you are over 50 or have siblings or parents with heart disease, ask your doctor to order these tests:

    • An electrocardiogram, to see if your heartbeat is normal.

    • A stress-echocardiogram, to see if your hear responds well to exercise stress.

    • Blood tests for cholesterol, c-reactive protein (CRP), and glucose, which, if too high, may invite heart problems.

    • Blood-pressure checks. Elevated blood pressure damages arteries and invites plaque deposits that can lead to heart attack.

Although low estrogen has been linked to higher heart risk, hormone replacement therapy is no longer recommended for preventing heart problems women experience. The latest medical studies not only fail to support its use, but have produced evidence that in some cases it may increase heart risk.


*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading developer of weight-loss software and medical news.

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Last modified September 18, 2010

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