Believe it or not:
- More women die of heart disease than men.
- Cardiovascular disease kills 6 times as many women every year as breast cancer.
- Worldwide, 8.6 million women die from heart disease each year, accounting for a third of all deaths in women.
- More than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease in America.
- Nearly two-thirds of reported deaths from heart attacks in women occur among those who have no history of chest pain.
- Marital stress exacerbates the prognosis in women with heart disease.
- From the age of 40, the average woman has a 1 in 5 chance of developing heart failure at some stage in her life.
- 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year, compared to 24% of men.
- Women comprise of only 24% of participants in all heart-related studies.
A first for South Africa, our Women’s Heart Clinic is the country’s first institute that focuses on the impact of hormonal changes on the heart and how to improve the health of females living with, or at risk of, a cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms: Women with heart disease present differently
Women are different, and the manner in which they handle stress is unique. Sometimes, symptoms of heart disease in women present with the classic symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain or aches down the left arm, but not always.
Women may have no chest pain at all, and may accidently mistake the signs for old age or feeling under the weather.
Women therefore need to be aware of:
- Profound fatigue
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling faint or dizzy spells
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling anxious or “doomed”
- Excessive sweating
- Neck, shoulder blade and upper back pain or discomfort
- Burning abdominal pain.
Menopause. Oestrogen is considered heart protective when produced naturally by the ovaries. It helps maintain the strong muscle tissue of the heart. After menopause, however, the diminished supply of oestrogen not only impacts the health of the muscle, but also increases your cholesterol levels, both of which contribute to heart disease.
Underactive Thyroid. Low thyroid levels cause a rise in bad cholesterol levels and a hardening of the aorta (the body’s main artery), which increases the risk of a heart attack.
Hypertension. Women with hypertension are 3.5 times more likely to experience heart disease, stroke and congestive heart failure than those with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is more common in women taking oral contraceptives, and even more prevalent in women who are overweight.
Smoking. Tobacco use dramatically increases the danger of a heart attack and stroke, as well as lung cancer and other critical diseases. Smoking also erases a woman’s oestrogen protection.
High Blood Cholesterol. There is good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). Too much LDL travelling in your blood can cause blockages in the arteries and a possible heart attack. The higher your LDL number, the higher your chances of cardiovascular disease.
Obesity. Overweight people are more likely to develop chronic heart-related diseases, including stroke, congestive heart failure, diabetes and breathing problems, even if you have no other risk factors.
Physical Inactivity. A lack of physical exercise can increase your possibility for both heart disease and other related risk factors, such as diabetes, overweight and high blood pressure.
Diabetes. Diabetes is one of the biggest silent killers and a major concern for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. A family history of diabetes, physical inactivity and obesity all contribute towards developing this disease.
When it comes to diagnosing women’s heart disease, the standard diagnostic tests that show cardiovascular damage, such as the treadmill stress test and angiography, do not suffice, and may often give a false impression of function, when there is significant disease.
The Women’s Heart Clinic therefore ensures a thorough investigation is conducted via:
- Clinical assessment and risk stratification
- Stress ECG
- Sonar of the heart
- Carotid artery Doppler/sonar
- Comprehensive blood/hormonal tests
In line with The Heart Wellness Centre’s holistic approach to healthcare, we at The Women’s Heart Clinic, consider the whole woman and her medical preferences for healing. Women have many treatment options, ranging from medications to non-invasive procedures to surgical procedures. Learn what options are available and talk them over with your doctor to find out what treatments are right for you.
Alternative. From relaxation and meditation, to yoga and nutritional supplementation, treatment that best fits your mental and physical outlook will be considered.
Preventative. Standing at the heart of the family, women tend to make an estimated 70% of their family’s health care decisions and serve as role models for their children, grandchildren and spouses. When women make heart healthy lifestyle choices, their families do too.
- Know your blood pressure and manage it
- Exercise regularly
- Don't smoke
- Get tested for diabetes and regulate it
- Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control
- Eat a heart healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Maintain optimal hormonal levels