Heart attack and stroke kill 10 times as many women each year as breast cancer.
In 2000, 439,000 women died of heart attack or stroke, the most frequent causes of death in women. One tenth as many, 42,000, died of breast cancer.
Nevertheless, heart disease is not considered a woman's disease.
Each year 1.1 million people have a heart attack, of which 370,000 die -- 250,000 in the first hour.
By age 60, one of every 17 women develops coronary heart disease. By age 70, one out of every eight women will have had a heart attack or heart pain.
The younger the woman, the more likely the first symptom will be sudden death.
Once an older woman gets heart disease, they will be more affected with more debilitating symptoms and more early death than a man.
When I began my cardiology practice in Hayward and Fremont 24 years ago, we were just beginning to understand how to help people with heart attacks and other forms of heart disease. All my patients were men.
Now, about half my patients are women. Although the women patients are more severely affected and older, they are often more treatable.
Men begin developing heart disease when they are 9 years old. It is a slowly progressive disease that culminates in a heart attack or stroke in the 50s or 60s.
Women, almost regardless of their ultimate risk, have absolutely normal arteries until menopause. Their disease begins then and progresses over a 10- to 15-year period to a more severe disease than a man, whose disease gradually develops over a 50-year period. This rapid progression does not give a woman the chance to develop the protective mechanisms men often develop over a much longer time period. It does make them more susceptible to dying suddenly from a relatively minor event. Women with heart disease, although at higher risk, may also benefit more from medical care. The rapid accumulation of cholesterol after menopause also may make the cholesterol buildup easier to treat. The cholesterol plaques in women tend to be foamy and softer than in men. This softness is able to be removed using aggressive medical therapies such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, good blood pressure control and by controlling blood sugar in those with diabetes. I advise women with a family history of heart disease to find out what the risk factors are that cause the problem and to work with their physicians to correct those risks they may have inherited. Also, if your mother had her heart attack at 60 don't wait until you are 59 to begin worrying. Moreover, your mindset for improving your risks should be about you, not about groups.
Studies will often say that one treatment or another will reduce the potential risk of a heart attack by 30 percent. What about the other 70 percent? Be aggressive with your own health. Be sure you are reducing your personal risk as much as possible. We have enough data to know that having heart disease is a choice. If you let yourself go, put on weight, eat the wrong food, continue to smoke or avoid exercise, you are choosing to have a heart attack. The reverse is also true and we now know that treating the risks saves lives. Heart disease is not only preventable, it is reversible. Dr. Jeffrey Carlson is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Cardiology. Dr. Carlson has an office in Hayward and Fremont and has clinical privileges at St. Rose Hospital and Washington Hospital. Source: Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. Powered by Yellowbrix.------ From flirting to dating to marriage ... Our Relationships & Love newsletter has the best advice for your relationship.