The gift of a healthy heart: How heart disease is different in women

It’s Mother’s Day weekend so we asked 9Health Expert, Dr. Payal Kohli, for ways moms, and really all women, can stay healthy and take care of their heart.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Studies by The American Heart Association show one woman has a heart attack every 43 seconds one in five women will succumb to heart disease.

The good news, 80% of heart attacks and stroke are preventable with lifestyle changes and knowledge according to the American Heart Association.

9Health Expert and cardiologist, Dr. Payal Kohli, shared tips for women to keep their heart healthy, “These would be a great gift to share with your mom for Mother’s Day,” she said.

Kohli outlined the ABCDs when it comes to heart health:

A – Alcohol, less than one drink per day for women to keep their heart healthy

B – Blood pressure, should be less than 130/80

C – Cholesterol, LDL or the bad cholesterol needs to be at less than 100

D – Diabetes, if a woman has diabetes, her hemoglobin A1C needs to be at less than 7%

How is heart disease different in women compared to men?

There are differences in the development of heart disease between men and women. The types of blood vessels affected can be different. Kohli said that men tend to get blockages in the big arteries and women get blockages in the small arteries.

The prognosis and complication rates are also higher in women compared to men partly because heart complications aren’t recognized early enough because the symptoms for a woman can be atypical.  For women, during a heart attack or complication, chest pain may be subtle or absent while for men, they classically have that elephant on the chest feeling.

The symptoms of a heart complication for women include shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling lightheaded, back pain, nausea, fatigue, heartburn or sweating, “If you have any sort of an unusual symptom, that seems severe, unusual and unprovoked, it should really set off an alarm bell in your head that it could be a heart attack,” Kohli explained.

If you feel any of these symptoms suddenly, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor. Seeking treatment early is very important for women since their symptoms of a heart attack can be more subtle.

“Be sure when you call your mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, to tell her to take good care of herself. Get plenty of rest and know that these can be atypical signs and symptoms,” added Kohli.