Tag Archives: prinzmetal’s angina

How a woman’s heart is different from a man’s

14 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

In many ways, the fact that my cardiac treadmill stress test results appeared “normal” was not a surprise, despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of crushing chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm. What we now know is that single-vessel heart disease, which is more common in women than in men, may be less likely to be picked up at all on a treadmill test.

Even though my left anterior descending coronary artery was 95% blocked, this didn’t show up. Similarly, for other women non-obstructive heart disease (again, more common in women) is harder to identify given our existing diagnostics. Women are more likely to suffer from coronary microvascular disease affecting the smallest blood vessels of the heart. And spasm conditions like Prinzmetal’s variant angina are difficult to catch at the best of times, but women can be just as dead after a heart attack caused by undiagnosed Prinzmetal’s as they would be due to fully-occluded coronary arteries.   Continue reading

How women can have heart attacks without having any blocked arteries

25 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Turns out that the kind of heart attack that I had (caused by a 95% blockage in the big left anterior descending coronary artery) – the so-called widowmaker heart attackmay actually be relatively uncommon  in women. You might guess that fact by its nickname.  It’s not, after all, called the “widower-maker”.

While cardiologists warn that heart disease can’t be divided into male and female forms, there are some surprising differences. Cardiologist Dr. Amir Lerman at the world famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told the Los Angeles Times recently:

“When it comes to acute heart attacks and sudden death from cardiac arrest, women have these kinds of events much more often without any obstructions in their coronary arteries.”

Instead, it appears that a significant portion of women suffer from another form of heart disease altogether. It affects not the superhighway coronary arteries but rather the smaller arteries, called microvessels. These tiny arteries deliver blood directly to the heart muscle.

Ironically, I can now boast two diagnoses for the price of one – first, the widowmaker heart attack caused by a fully occluded coronary artery back in 2008, and then, after several months of puzzling, ongoing cardiac symptoms – like chest pain, shortness of breath, and crushing fatigue – a second diagnosis of inoperable coronary microvascular disease. Continue reading

Women’s heart pain is both physical and emotional

13 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

woman abstract6Before a heart attack actually occurs, people suffering from the chest pain of angina can feel emotionally traumatized.  Angina may be a physical cardiovascular problem, but it can also take a remarkable emotional toll in the form of anxiety or depression. 

Imagine living in constant dread of the next painful attack, or feeling distressed because angina has forced you to give up activities you enjoy. Over time, anxiety and depression may become a part of your ongoing cardiac symptoms along with the alarming chest pain that can come with an angina attack.  This can lead to a vicious cycle: depression, anxiety, and stress may actually trigger angina pain by prompting the release of hormones that make the heart work harder.
Continue reading

The chest pain of angina comes in four flavours

5 Jul

woman angina

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are four main types of angina pectoris women should know about, no matter how you pronounce it: ‘anj-EYE-nuh’ in Canada or Australia, or AN-gin-uh’ in the U.S.  

The chest pain called angina is not the same as a heart attack – but it can feel like one and can in fact lead to one. Here are the four types of angina you need to know:

  • Stable angina: Mayo Clinic cardiologists define this as any pain/discomfort between neck and navel that comes on with exertion and is relieved by rest. When you climb stairs, exercise or walk, your heart muscle demands more blood, but it’s harder for the muscle to get enough blood when your coronary arteries have become narrowed. Stable angina can also be triggered by emotional stress, cold temperatures, heavy meals, smoking or other activities that can narrow arteries. learn more about the other three types of angina

Heart attack misdiagnosis in women

28 May

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

A woman attending one of my heart health presentations told me of her recent trip to the Emergency Department of our local hospital, and an overheard conversation between the (male) doctor and the (male) patient in the bed next door beyond the curtain:

“Your blood tests came back fine, your EKG tests are fine – but we’re going to keep you for observation just to rule out a heart attack”.

A male patient is thus admitted to hospital for observation in spite of ‘normal’ cardiac test results – as current treatment guidelines require.  But I and countless other females in mid-heart attack are being sent home from Emergency following ‘normal’ test results like his, and with misdiagnoses ranging from indigestion to anxiety or menopause.  Why is this?       click to continue reading