Women and Heart attacks – Different From Men

women heart attackMost women believe their biggest health risk is breast cancer, but heart disease actually kills six times more women.

In fact heart disease is the number one cause of death among women, causing 1 out of every 3 deaths.

Since most women are not focused on heart health, the same way that men are, they often don’t make the same life changes or respond to the symptoms as quickly when they do occur.

Female Heart Attack Symptoms

women heart attackFemale heart attacks usually show as discomfort in the chest, breast, back, shoulders, jaw, neck or throat as well as fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, nausea, severe indigestion, and sleep disturbances.

These symptoms are usually milder than when a man has a heart attack with easily recognizable chest grabbing pain or arm clutching pain.

Since these symptoms are easier to miss, many women just attribute them to something else and go about their day.

But heart attacks happen very quickly and women who do have a heart attack are more likely to die than men are because the symptoms are harder to identify.

This is important for women to know, so that they take control of their heart health before its too late.

Heart Health Factors To Look For

Know your blood pressure numbers:

blood pressureAdults should have a blood pressure of less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Many people fall into the category in between, called prehypertension.

120 – 129 over 80 – 84 = 181% higher risk of cardiovascular disease*

130 – 139 over 85 – 89 = 233% higher risk of cardiovascular disease*

*New England Journal of Medicine

Know your Cholesterol Numbers:

In healthy adults, total cholesterol levels should be under 200. From 200 to 239 mg/dL is considered borderline-high, and levels above 240 are considered dangerously high.

Total cholesterol of 260 mg/dL increases your heart attack risk by 500%.

LDL Cholesterol – (keep below 100mg/dl if you have heart disease.)
When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in your blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of your arteries.  This plaque narrows your arteries and makes them less flexible.  This condition is known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

cholesterol and antioxidantsHDL Cholesterol – (keep above 35mg/dl – the higher the better.)
HDL is called the good cholesterol. HDL transports cholesterol in your blood back to the liver, where it is then eliminated from your body. HDL helps keep LDL cholesterol from building up in the walls of your arteries. If your level of HDL cholesterol is below 35mg/dl, you are at substantially higher risk for coronary heart diease.

Triglycerides – (keep under 150mg/dl.)
Triglyceride is another form of fat (lipid) made in the body. Elevated triglycerides can be caused by obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates.

Other Risk Factors

High C-reactive Protein

One of The New England Journal of Medicine studies showed that people with high levels of C-reactive protein were almost three times as likely to die from a heart attack.

High C-reactive protein  causes significant damage to the arteries. A series of landmark studies indicate that 25 to 35 million Americans with normal cholesterol levels have above average levels of inflammation within their cardiovascular systems, This inflammation has significant impact on heart disease risk. You can know if you have this inflammatory marker by having a C-reactive protein test.

High C-reactive protein levels indicate an increased risk for unstable plaque and abnormal clotting. One of the New England Journal of Medicine studies showed that people with high levels of C-reactive protein were almost three times as likely to die from a heart attack.

High Homocysteine

homocysteineHaving a high homocysteine level produces  a 3-fold increase in the risk of heart attack over a 5-year period.

The evidence is clear that having an elevated homocysteine level is an independent risk factor for heart disease. One large study indicates having an elevated homocysteine level produces a more than 3-fold increase in the risk of heart attack over a 5-year period.

Homocysteine causes thickening of the inner wall of your arteries. It also encourages blood platelets to accumulate, which may lead to the formation of blood clots. In animal studies, homocysteine has been shown to negatively affect the production of nitric oxide, the gas that causes your arteries to relax and blood flow to increase.

In 1999, the American Heart Association recognized the role of homocysteine in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) when it issued an advisory statement emphasizing the importance of reducing homocysteine blood levels. The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that Vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and trimethylglycine could be used to lower homocysteine levels.

Heart Arrythmias

magnesium arrythmiaHeart arrythmias increase the risk of stroke five to seven times.

A healthy heartbeat is stimulated by electrical pulses that arise from within the heart itself and cause cardiac muscle contractions that send blood pulsing through your body’s network of arteries and veins. Ideally, this system works without problems. When there is a problem with your electrical system, an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia may develop.

Underlying health problems that may contribute to the development of arrhythmias include congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, atherosclerosis, diabetes, thyroid disease, and damaged heart valves. Untreated, you may experience chronic fatigue and it may lead to heart failure. Arrhythmias increase the risk of stroke three to five times.

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