Quick Facts About Cardiovascular Disease In Women

Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the US by far
– Roughly 401,000 deaths/year from all causes of cardiovascular disease
– Roughly 176,000 deaths per year from coronary artery disease
– Vs 39,520 deaths per year from breast cancer
– CVD and CAD disproportionately affect African American and Latin women
– CVD kills more women than the next 7 causes of death combined
– CVD kills one of every 2.5 women (breast cancer kills 1 in 30 women)

Women are roughly 10 years older than men when they typically present and have more co-morbidities
– Women have more atypical symptoms and are more likely to wait before seeking medical attention
– Women with heart attacks are more likely to have complications and a higher in-hospital mortality than men (14.6% vs 10.3%)

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women
– Chest pain, discomfort, tightness (in a recent study, 43% of women had NO chest pain)
– Unusual upper body discomfort
– Shortness of breath (42% had this symptom)
– Breaking out in a cold sweat
– Unusual or unexplained fatigue (71% had this symptom)
– Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
– Nausea

Sudden cardiac death
– Occurs more often in men
– However, women have no prior symptoms more often than men (63% vs 44%)

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease
– Menopause
– Age > 55
– Family history of premature coronary disease (male age < 55, female age < 65)
– Diabetes – doubles the risk of fatal coronary artery disease
– Smoking – associated with 50% of all coronary events in women with a 6-fold increase risk of heart attack in women vs. 3% for men
– Hypertension
– Peripheral arterial disease
– Hypercholesterolemia – low HDL is more predictive than high LDL
– Hypertryglyceridemia – more predictive in older women especially if > 400mg/dl
– Obesity
– Metabolic syndrome
– Collagen vascular disease
– Chronic kidney disease
– Prior pregnancy
– History of X ray therapy for cancer
– Depression and/or stress

Multiple risk factors further increases your risk
– 1 risk factor doubles your risk
– 2 risk factors quadruples your risk
– 3 or more increase the risk 10-fold

Diagnosing cardiovascular disease
– Stress testing – better with echo or nuclear imaging
– CT calcium score
– Coronary CTA
– Cardiac catheterization

Treatment and prevention
– Aerobic exercise at least 1 hour, 3-4 times per week
– Quit smoking
– Healthy diet – low fat, low cholesterol
– Keep BMI < 25 and waist circumference < 35 in.
– Treat risk factors: HTN, DM, HLD
– Aspirin for those with 2 or more risk factors
– Treat depression
– Increased awareness of atypical symptoms in women

In summary, only 55% of women recognize that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Breast cancer, which is mainly considered a woman’s disease, is not even close statistically. Awareness, life style modification, and treatment of risk factors is very important. Seek out medical guidance if you don’t quite feel right!