Heart attack in women is one of the leading causes of death in the United States (and globally). The symptoms are not frank but still the mortality rate is high. Cardiovascular diseases is common in women but the common symptoms like chest pain is not always present. Chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes lead to higher risk of heart attack in women than compared to men.
“All women need to know the risk of heart attack which can be a silent killer” says Dr. Yamini Atluri, an internist working as a hospitalist at Spectrum Health Medical Group, Michigan, USA. Her initiative to care for women’s heart health is highly relevant to the modern healthcare system. She has prior experience as a physician in India, having completed her MBBS from Andhra Medical College in Visakhapatnam. Sreerupa Patronobish recently had a discussion with Dr. Atluri regarding women’s heart health.
SP: Welcome Dr. Atluri
YA: Thank you.
SP: How common is heart attacks in women?
YA: Definitely, it is common and most of the time it is silent. The common symptoms lack as compared to those of men but it is the number one killer disease of women in the United States. Research have shown that 64% of women who died of coronary artery disease had no previous symptoms. Women often ignore these symptoms and relate them to other factors which increases the risk further.
SP: What are the risk factors of women’s heart attack?
YA: Cardiovascular disease kills 1 American woman nearly every minute which is higher than any form of cancer. It is important that physicians identify the symptoms early for women’s heart attack. The blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides and BMI (body mass index) numbers which are essential predictive parameters to monitor heart attack signs. To be precise high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity are key risk factors for heart disease in women. Cardiovascular complication and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy can enhance the risk of heart attack in women.
SP: What are the signs of heart attack in women?
YA: Women are more likely to have a different signs and symptoms of heart attack than common chest pain than men. These symptoms can be pain in the back, neck, jaw, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath. Most of the time silent heart attack occurs in women, so screening of the parameters is important.
SP: How does smoking enhance the risk of heart attack?
YA: Effects of smoking can enhance higher risk of causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The trend of smoking has engulfed the younger generation much more in comparison to the older generation. Smoking enhances heart disease and stroke by two to four times more. The trends of initiation of smoking tobacco are also disturbing in young women and affects a large proportion across the globe including in rural America.
SP:Are there any other factors that can cause heart attack in women?
YA: This is an extremely important question; the answer is yes, there are other factors that increases the chance of heart attack in women. Oral contraceptives can increase blood pressure and risk for stroke and heart attack. Menopause in women can increase the chance of heart attack as estrogen level decreases. Pregnancy in women have a chance of heart attack, especially women with age of 35 to 39 years have more risk than women who are in 20’s. Excessive stressful situations can definitely increase the risk of heart attack.
SP: What are the prevention measures that can be taken to reduce risk of heart attack?
YA: The first thing I always make aware to my patients is that if there is any discomfort in body like pain in arms, jaw, neck, shortness of breath, it is time to call 9-1-1 and get to hospital right away. This is the first step one can avoid the risk of death. High risk factors can be avoided by regular exercise, balanced diet, quit smoking. Change in lifestyle to reduce stress can definitely avoid the risk. BMI (body mass index) s measured from height and weight. A BMI of 25 or high can lead to a risk of heart attack. I have raised awareness of this vital issue of heart healthcare through a website hridaysparsh.org. Controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol level is essential for reducing the risk. Every women should know the warning signs and the most important thing is willingness to stay well, reach out for medical care and live a better life.