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Women and Heart Disease

Women and Heart DiseaseDid you know that Heart Disease is the number one killer of women, taking 1 out of 3 women’s lives each year?  With so much focus on other diseases that affect females, like breast cancer and autoimmune diseases, heart disease is often overlooked and underestimated.  One woman dies every minute of cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease is the narrowing of the arteries over time, due to a build-up of plaque that can in some cases cause a complete blockage of the blood vessels or coronary arteries.  The signs for women are often different than the symptoms commonly associated with men at risk of Coronary Artery Disease, or a heart attack.  For women, the signs are usually excessive sweating, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain in the jaw, shoulder, upper back, neck and the abdomen.

Although Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is down overall, for women it’s on the rise.  Many factors play a role in CADs affecting women; one of these is hormonal.  When hormones are out of order, additional factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and weight gain start to take place.  All of these symptoms contribute to CAD.

Linking hormonal changes to the increase in women developing heart disease are also marked by risk factors such as having had gestational hypertension or gestational diabetes.  Along with menopause and the related hormonal fluctuations, eating a diet high in saturated fats, having uncontrolled hypertension or high cholesterol, being overweight, mental anxiety or unresolved stress, and smoking or previously smoking all play a huge role in CAD.

Additionally, women tend to have plaque build-up and blockages in their tiny vessels, where men tend to have those issues in the larger arteries.  These are often difficult to diagnose.  These small vessels are known as microvascular, and therefore many women may actually be experiencing the effects of MVD, Microvascular Disease.  MVD is now thought to affect approximately 3 million women with Coronary Artery Disease.

There are supplementary tests to check the microvascular system in women for weakening, damage, and blockages.  These minimally invasive tests can determine if the microvascular structures are damaged; these procedures are typically done through duplex ultrasound or pulse wave velocity.

Women can be treated successfully if CAD or MVD is caught early.  Usually keeping weight down with a healthy diet, and keeping the heart muscle strong and oxygen-rich blood flowing through cardiovascular exercise are helpful, along with medications like ACE inhibitors, alpha-beta blockers, and cholesterol-lipid lowering drugs.

In addition to the testing mentioned above, there are specific procedures and screenings that your physician can provide to decipher how healthy your heart and arteries are; these include blood tests, stress tests, EKG’s, Holter monitors, vascular ultrasounds, and scans.

Dr. Thiruvallur Vallabhan is devoted to keeping your heart at its healthiest.  Dr. Vallabhan is a Board Certified Cardiologist, and his mission is to provide The Villages and its surrounding communities with the highest quality cardiac care in a welcoming environment. He and his staff are dedicated to fulfilling the specific cardiac needs of each patient.

To find out more information about Dr. Vallabhan, your local specialists in the diseases of the heart, veins, and arteries, please call (352) 750-2040 or visit them online at, www.drvcardio.com.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.

It’s all about your heart.
Dr. Thiruvallur Vallabhan is devoted to keeping your heart at its healthiest.  Dr. Vallabhan is a Board Certified Cardiologist, and his mission is to provide The Villages and its surrounding
communities with the highest quality cardiac care in a welcoming environment. He and his staff are dedicated to fulfilling the specific cardiac needs of each patient.

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