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Heart Disease in Women

News, Heart Disease in Women, women and heart disease

Written by Dr. Minnsun ‘Annette’ Park, Ashchi Heart & Vascular

For the longest time, heart disease has been considered a “man’s disease”. However, women in the United States die from heart disease more than from any other disease, and there are almost as many women as men who die each year from heart disease (Women and Heart Disease, 2020). Unfortunately, this fact has long gone under-recognized, especially as women do not always have the ‘typical’ symptoms of heart disease that we all have come to learn and recognize- chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness/tingling, and diaphoresis. In women, it is more common to present with what is known as ‘atypical’ symptoms- milder symptoms of discomfort in chest, abdomen, and/or back, feelings of indigestion, and sometimes, just presenting as generalized weakness, fatigue, feeling “off” as if have developed some type of systemic illness.

News, Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease mostly affects men and women starting their 50s- however, studies have shown that heart disease can develop as early as in one’s 20s depending on genetics and risk factors. This is because heart disease can actually develop during pregnancy- high blood pressure leading to preeclampsia or eclampsia, and heart failure called peripartum cardiomyopathy- a condition that is rare, but has been known to affect some women during their last month of pregnancy or up to 5-6 months post-birth. It is not a condition that is always recognized and diagnosed as symptoms of this condition is similar to those commonly recognized as part of being pregnant- shortness of breath, leg swelling, and/or fatigue. 

Women's Heart Disease Statistics

Most heart diseases (about 80% of all heart disease), are preventable. And to do so, we need to identify and diagnose not only the disease but also the risk factors early in order to start treatment and to prevent further development of disease burden. Therefore, it is important that we start to recognize the fact that women are just as at risk for heart disease as men, and that even atypical, milder symptom presentation should trigger concerns for possible underlying heart disease in women.

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