February is Heart Month

Did you know heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of death for women in the US?

photo-blog-heart-diseaseFebruary 6th was “go Red day” to highlight women and heart disease. Pictured are a group of women from our office.  One of these women had a heart attack about 15 years ago, in her early 40’s.  Her only symptom was increased fatigue and an elevated heart rate after eating.  She did not experience chest, arm or jaw pain. There were no typical symptoms of heart disease.  Her only symptom was that she felt increasingly more tired, and eventually could not sleep lying down due to shortness of breath.  She decided to see her physician, who told her that she needed to lose weight.  He did tell her to increase the dosage of her diuretic/blood pressure (BP) medication.

That evening she experienced extreme shortness of breath, and was unable to lie in bed.  She tried to sleep sitting up, but to no avail.  She is a nurse and by this time she realized something was terribly wrong.  So she drove herself to the hospital Emergency room.  The ER physician  didn’t seem too concerned because the EKG of her heart was normal, but he told her to wait until he received the blood test reports.  Once the Doctor received the blood test reports and saw her elevated cardiac enzymes, and low blood count, she was diagnosed as having a heart attack.  She was then taken by ambulance to a Cardiac specialty hospital where they did an immediate heart catheterization.  It was discovered she had a 90% blockage of one of her major heart arteries.  She received a cardiac stent.  This was some 15 years ago, and is now doing fine.

She experienced a heart attack, and the outcome could have been fatal, had she not persisted in trying to get medical intervention.  Her story illustrates the atypical symptoms that many women who have heart disease experience

Typically heart disease has been seen as a male disease.  But do you know that heart disease kills similar numbers of men and women.  According to the CDC the most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease.  The Mayo Clinic claims that more women than men die of heart disease each year.  Women still believe that breast cancer is the major killer for women, but only 1 of 31 women die from breast cancer.  However, heart disease and stroke are attributed to the deaths of 1 in 3 women.

What are women’s heart attack symptoms?

Often men experience chest pressure, or pain radiating down their arm or up their neck to the jaw. Some women may experience chest pressure.  Typically the symptoms women experience are shortness of breath, pressure or pain to the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure, or extreme fatigue.

If you are a women, and experience any of these symptoms, please see your physician, and be sure that blood tests are done to assess your heart function.  By being proactive, you will save your life!

Next week I will review the risk factors you can control in preventing heart disease.

Want to find out more?
Leading Causes of Death in Females United States, 2010
Going red: raising awareness of heart disease in women

American Heart Association
Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Study (2012)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Who Is at Risk for Heart Disease?

Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.

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