Subtle Signs of Heart Disease for Women

How are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease Different for a Woman? Do Hormones Play a Role?

Yes. Hormonal cycles can affect women's cardiovascular health. In the pre-menopausal years, estrogen is protective of the heart—estrogen relaxes the arteries and promotes good cholesterol.

What About Women's Different Heart Attack Symptoms?

Chest pain is the most common symptom in both sexes, but women may not experience intense pain like an elephant sitting on their chest. They may have chest tightness or a dull ache; they also may have shortness of breath, jaw pain, or nausea.

Is It True That Women's Actual Heart Attacks are Different, Too?

Not only can the symptoms be different, but findings on tests may not follow the typical pattern. Women don't always present with the classic pathological mechanisms that lead to heart attacks (and that most of our tests are designed to detect)

Then, How Do You Know They've Had a Heart Attack?

There is greater recognition now that women have non-traditional forms of heart attack. Some of our newer imaging tests and catheter-based assessments can reveal disease in the small arteries of the heart, which can lead to heart attacks.

The VIRGO Study Was a Step That Brought More Awareness to These Different Heart Attacks, Correct?

That's right. Harlan Krumholz, MD, the director of CORE, led a large study that aimed to understand the experiences and outcomes of patients after a heart attack, and also to compare men and women.

There Has Been Debate Around Statin Therapy. What Do Women Need to Know About That?

Statins are medications that lower LDL, or bad cholesterol; they are a mainstay for preventing heart attack and stroke—resulting in about a 30% to 40% reduction in risk.

Hypertension is Another Big Topic, Correct?

Hypertension is the most important risk factor that we can control. Yale New Haven Health Heart & Vascular Center and Yale Medicine are working to improve blood pressure control with a strategic focus on the New Haven community

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