Haqqani: Cardiovascular health in women Part two – Midland Daily News

Posted: August 26, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Dr. Omar P. Haqqanifor the Daily News

Dr. Omar P. Haqqani

Dr. Omar P. Haqqani

Haqqani:Cardiovascular health in women Part two

In part 1 of our series addressing cardiovascular health in women, we discussed the three most significant risk factors in developing cardiovascular disease. This week, we focus on the two deadliest cardiovascular events that can result from CVD, which are heart attacks and strokes.

Heart Attacks

Heart attacks are often viewed as something that primarily strike men; however, nearly a quarter million women a year die from them. That is 5 times higher than the number of deaths resulting from breast cancer.

In order to reduce occurrences of this cardiac event, women should be aware that a heart attack does not always feel the same in females as it does in men. The typical heart attack signs -- severe chest pain radiating down one arm or extreme shortness of breath -- can certainly occur in women, but many times, their symptoms are much more subtle.

They include:

Chest pain or discomfort that feels more like a fullness or squeezing throughout the chest rather than sharp, severe pain on the left side.

Pain in your back, neck or jaw that can build gradually and that can come and go.

Stomach pain and abdominal pressure that may be mistaken for heartburn.

Shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness for no apparent reason.

Sweating suddenly even though you have not exerted yourself.

Fatigue after engaging in activities as simple as walking up the stairs.

If you have any of these symptoms, do not ignore them. Get medical attention immediately and, rather than driving yourself to the hospital or asking a friend or family member to do so, call 911 so first responders can manage the event. Acting quickly can save your life and decrease the damage done to your heart.

To reduce your overall risk of a heart attack, make heart-smart lifestyle choices including getting regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet. It is also very important to keep your blood pressure under control and manage your blood sugar if you are diabetic.

Strokes

Stroke is another cardiovascular event that is a leading cause of death in women. In addition, because women live longer than men, the long-term effects of a stroke can have a much more negative impact on their lives. Once again, there are risk factors, warning signs and symptoms that are unique to women.

The typical risk factors for stroke -- being overweight, high blood pressure, an inactive lifestyle, smoking and diabetes -- apply equally to both sexes. But there are others that occur only in women such as pregnancy, using birth control pills or taking hormone replacement medications. Women who are in their child-bearing years or who are post-menopausal must be alert to the increased chances of having a stroke and be vigilant about monitoring symptoms.

Women will experience different symptoms than men when having a stroke. These include fainting, dizziness, hallucinations, nausea or vomiting, and frequent hiccups. Women may also feel numbness over their entire body rather than in a localized area. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately, particularly if you have difficulty speaking or see drooping in your face. Just like with heart attacks, it is imperative you act quickly to minimize stroke damage.

To reduce your risk of a stroke, stop smoking immediately and work toward reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight. If you are pregnant, monitor your blood pressure carefully throughout your pregnancy. Monitor it closely as well if you are on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy drugs and see your physician immediately if it rises.

While heart attacks and strokes are real dangers for women because the signs and symptoms are very different than those experienced by men, you can reduce your chances of having either by making important lifestyle changes, being alert to the signs and reacting quickly if symptoms appear.

Next week, part three of our series on cardiovascular health in women will specifically address how ethnicity plays a role in cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular events.

Dr. Omar P. Haqqani is the chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Vascular Health Clinics in Midland.

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Haqqani: Cardiovascular health in women Part two - Midland Daily News

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