Heart Health and Cardiovascular Disease

Special Attention and Special Considerations for Maintaining a Healthy Heart in Women

Heart disease remains, by far, the number one killer of women, and it also causes vast amounts of disability and loss of quality of life among them.  Cardiovascular conditions kill many times more women than breast cancer and other diseases that are often more closely associated with women's health.  And yet, many women are not aware of the risks that heart disease poses, may even still regard it as a man's disease (though more women die of heart attacks each year than men), and may not be well informed generally about heart function, heart health, and cardiac care.

Compared with men, women are:

  • more likely to die within the first year after a heart attack;
  • more likely to experience another heart attack or be disabled with heart failure within six years of a first heart attack;
  • and less likely to receive the proper and needed drug therapy –– as well
    surgical or interventional care –– for a heart condition.

Women have certain risks and risk factors particularly associated with their cardiac health.

Women are also under-represented in heart-related research studies. These and many other heart-health facts have been the subject of national awareness campaigns focusing on women and heart disease.  That's because women often fail to take seriously enough their own risk of heart disease and the connection between their personal heart health and certain variables that they may already understand, such as their blood pressure or cholesterol levels.  Surveys show that most women, in fact, do not even know their test results in these areas.  Furthermore, women may be less likely to have warning signs prior to a heart attack and they and their doctors often fail to recognize these signs.  Studies also show that women wait longer to seek emergency care when they have signs of a heart attack.

Counseling Patients Across a List of Factors
Good quality prevention and care for cardiovascular disease is much the same for men and women, and yet knowledge is increasing about certain differences in women's hearts and their vulnerabilities.  Experts believe that in women, for example, the cardiac affects of such risk factors as alcohol use, triglyceride levels, response to stress, and other factors are different than in men.  In addition, age (in particular, whether a woman is pre- or postmenopause) is an especially important aspect of a woman's risk assessment for heart problems.  Of course, use of hormone therapy in women also has heart-health implications.  

Furthermore, women need to know about the affects on heart health of such lifestyle factors as weight and diet, and be familiar with how to establish such objectives as target heart rate.  A healthier lifestyle can decrease a women's chance of developing heart disease.

The staff at Aria's Center for Gynecology & Women's Health can help patients to identify any risk factors they may have for heart disease and make appropriate referrals for a full screening for heart conditions.  They offer recommendations on steps to safeguard heart health and on treatment for existing conditions.  Working closely, as needed, with Aria's expanding and respected Heart Center, the women's center can help assure that female patients have access to the full range of cardiovascular testing, drug treatment, minimally invasive interventional care, surgery, and cardiac rehabilitation. 

Working Closely with the Heart Experts
Symptoms that signal a heart condition in a woman can look somewhat different than those in men.  For example, chronic fatigue can be an important warning sign in female patients.  In addition, the combination of echocardiography and various types of stress testing is especially important in evaluating women for possible heart conditions.

Aria's women's center staff can help advise on and recommend care for such possible conditions as stable and unstable angina, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart murmur, and heart failure.  Aria cardiac specialists can provide any diagnostics or cardiology consultations needed and can help in making decisions about lifestyle interventions and cardiovascular treatments.

There are many ways to work toward improving heart health, even for women who already suffer from a heart condition.  Aria's Heart Center staff can provide  precise assessment and assist in long-term management of heart health, preventive steps, or interventions or care regimen, as part of overall care through the women's center.