With the CDC reporting that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, it’s important for all of us to understand how to recognize and prevent the condition – and surprisingly, this can vary widely between the two genders. The heart itself is, in fact, physically different based on gender, with women’s hearts comprised of thinner walls and smaller interior chambers, pumping blood faster and yet with less blood per pump than the hearts of men.
As a result, women’s heart disease risk factors differ from men’s in the following ways:
Heart Disease Risk Factors Specific to Women:
- High blood pressure developed during pregnancy
- Polycystic ovary disease
Heart Disease Risk Factors for Both Men and Women:
- Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar levels
- Family history
Women’s experience with heart disease and treatment/recovery differ as well. For instance, because heart disease in women often effects the smaller arteries, diagnosis through the typical means (angiogram) is less effective, as it shows blockages in the larger arteries only. In fact, it’s recommended that women who receive clear angiogram results but are still experiencing symptoms of heart disease see a cardiologist with a specialty in women’s heart health.
Heart attacks also differ between men and women. Consider the following:
- A first heart attack usually occurs at a later age for women than men (on average, 70 for women and 66 for men)
- A woman’s heart attack can include the additional symptoms of:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pain in the back, neck or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Women typically struggle with a more difficult recovery following a heart attack than men, requiring a longer hospital stay
- Women are more likely to experience a subsequent heart attack
One thing that applies to both genders when it comes to heart health is prevention. Reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack by making the following lifestyle changes:
- Quit (or never start) smoking
- Ensure your diet includes plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods, simple carbs, and animal products
- Ensure that your blood pressure, blood lipid, blood sugar and weight are all within healthy levels
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day
For more heart health tips, call on Nightingale Homecare, providers of the highest quality at home care Scottsdale and the surrounding area has to offer. We can help with planning and preparing heart-healthy meals, encouraging an active lifestyle, ensuring medications are taken exactly as prescribed, and much more. Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 and take the first step in improving heart health for yourself and the seniors you love!
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