Women's Heart Disease Risks/Symptoms
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the broad term encompassing all disorders of the heart and circulatory system. These include coronary heart disease (CHD), angina, stroke, congenital heart disease, and heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI). It is well-known that in the USA, CVD is the leading killer of men. What is not so well-known is that CVD is the leading killer of women aged 50 and older. It is also not common knowledge that there are substantial gender differences in not only the prevalence of these diseases, but also in the signs and symptoms of CVD. This newsletter will delve into some of the surprising and informative differences.
Firstly, since female sex is associated with a longer life expectancy than male sex, women constitute a larger proportion of the elderly population in which the prevalence of CVD is greatest. Secondly, women tend to develop CVD about 10 years later in life than men. Risk begins to equal that of men when women reach their mid-70's. The absolute number of CVD deaths since 1984 among the female sex has exceeded that of the male sex. In women, the prevalence of CVD varies according to racial/ethnic status. The prevalence of CVD among women ≥20 years of age is 47% among blacks, 34% among whites, and 31% among Mexican Americans. Asian women ≥18 years of age have the lowest prevalence of CHD, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Data over the past decade have shown that women have a higher 30-day mortality rate after an MI. Various theories/reasons exist for this discrepancy, among them: delay in women seeking care, medical delay in recognition and treatment, and older ages at time of presentation among women compared with men.
Risk Differences for Women
Stroke affects more women than men. Common risk factors (for both sexes) include a family history of stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Unique risk factors for women however, are pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and frequent migraines. Women pre-menopause are protected by estrogen's ability to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, after menopause, women have higher concentrations of total cholesterol than men do. Elevated triglycerides are also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in women. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women more than it does in men, and in women who have already had a heart attack, diabetes doubles the risk for a second heart attack and increases the risk for heart failure. Metabolic syndrome is the term for a group of risk factors, including large waist size, elevated blood pressure, glucose intolerance, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides. These risks increase the chance of developing not just heart disease, but also stroke and diabetes. Research suggests that metabolic syndrome is the most important risk factor for heart attacks in women at an unusually early age.
Women concerned about osteoporosis may take supplemental calcium. However, taking calcium without magnesium can upset the delicate balance between these two important minerals and may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Crushing chest pain is considered the most common warning sign of heart attack (in men). In women, however, this is not a classic symptom. Many women have heart attacks without chest pain. Only one in eight women reported chest pain during a heart attack. Less familiar symptoms are more common in women than men. Some of the symptoms women may experience within a month before a heart attack include: unusual fatigue, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, indigestion, anxiety, and weak/heavy arms. During an actual heart attack, symptoms for women may include: shortness of breath, weakness, unusual fatigue, cold sweat, dizziness, nausea, and weak/heavy arms.
Vitamin D insufficiency may be a factor in CVD for women. Studies have suggested that a deficiency predisposes individuals to increased risk of hypertension, ischemic heart disease, sudden cardiac death, or heart failure. Magnesium deficiency is widespread in the US, and a chronic low magnesium state is associated with a number of diseases, including coronary heart disease and heart attack. This mineral is involved in numerous and important aspects of the cardiovascular system. Electrical activity, myocardial contractility, and vascular tone rely on magnesium. Deficiency is linked with cardiac arrhythmias, heart attack, and atherosclerotic heart disease. Luckily, these two nutrients in supplement form are widely available and inexpensive.
Availability & Selection
Evergreen Nutrition has a Heart Health section with a wide variety of heart-friendly items including: coenzyme Q10, berberine, Homocysteine Modulators, red yeast rice, Moduchol (plant sterols) and omega-3 with Co Q10. In addition, we offer over fifty vitamin D and magnesium products from which to choose. We want to help you be good to your heart.
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The information provided here is for educational purposes only. None of the research or evidence presented here is intended as a substitute for consulting an appropriate healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have a disease condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this or any other dietary supplement.
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