Five shocking truths about your heart

4 May

woman surprise red dress

by Carolyn Thomas

It’s my cardiac anniversary week!  Here are some things about women and heart disease that I’ve learned since I was hospitalized following a heart attack on May 6, 2008.

  1. heart attacks are more deadly for women than for men
  2. heart attack symptoms can be more subtle for women
  3. heart research focuses on men, not women
  4. for women, depression and heart disease are strongly linked
  5. heart damage starts in your 20s (25-45 is the age coronary disease typically starts)

green pepper on plate

A woman’s heart weighs about 118 grams, similar to a green pepper, and hollow with interior chambers like a pepper. A man’s heart weighs 50% more, making it easier for cardiologists to work with. In fact, when cardiac stents were first invented, they were too large to implant in women’s coronary arteries. Women usually have lower blood pressure than men, and women’s hearts beat faster, even when they are asleep.

Researchers from Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital believe that women also have a different intrinsic rhythmicity to the pacemaker of their hearts, which causes them to beat faster.

These same researchers believe that it may take a woman’s heart longer to relax after each beat. Some surgeons also tell us that the fact that women have a 50% greater chance of dying during heart surgery than men could be related to some fundamental difference in women’s the way women’s hearts work. These differences may also account for the fact that women are more likely than men to die after their first heart attack.

Cardiac diagnostic tests may be less accurate in identifying heart disease in women. The treadmill stress test, or stress EKG, may be less accurate in women. For example, in young women with a low likelihood of coronary heart disease, an exercise stress test may give a false positive result. In contrast, single-vessel heart disease, which is more common in women than in men, may not be picked up at all on a routine treadmill test.

One way to improve the accuracy of the treadmill stress test is to use it in combination with a stress echocardiogram. This involves taking an ultrasound image of the heart while the patient is exercising. This type of testing provides information both about the mechanics of the heart in terms of muscle and valve function, and also about the health of the arteries supplying the heart muscle.

Find out more (about shocking heart truths, not about green peppers).

© Carolyn Thomas  www.myheartsisters.org  2009

.

2 Responses to “Five shocking truths about your heart”

  1. lordoscar June 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    whoa i hope i never get a heart attack. I didn’t know though that woman’s heart is 50% smaller.

    Like

  2. redplume May 4, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    Hi, Carolyn,
    Nice web site! I had three heart surgeries in 2000, which left me with two stents. Repeated episodes of angina with progressively more pronounced symptoms, and an alert general practitioner, spared me from a heart attack. Everything you write is absolutely true! My symptoms were extreme heat in the front of the neck and chest area, a sense of nausea, and feeling as if someone were squeezing my throat, making breathing difficult. With all the frontal heat sensations, I thought it was menopause. Kudos to you for providing good information on an informative site. –Janet Lane, http://www.janetlane.wordpress.com

    Like

Your opinion matters. What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: