If you’re like many women, you tend to think of heart disease as a condition that affects mostly men. But, the fact is, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
“While most women are aware that one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer, they are surprised to learn that heart disease strikes one out of every three women,” said Kathleen M. Heintz, D.O., clinical cardiologist at the Cooper Heart Institute.
“And, unfortunately,” added Cooper cardiologist Andrea M. Russo, M.D., “studies continue to show a tendency to ignore early warning signs and attribute them to stress or anxiety.”
Dr. Russo noted that, “With six female cardiologists on staff at Cooper, we are attuned to women’s unique needs. We listen to our patients, examine their risk factors, perform the necessary tests and get women the answers they need.”
Know – and Manage – Your Cardiac Risks
Because the best way to treat heart disease can be through prevention, it’s important for women to be aware of their risk factors.
“The risk factors for heart disease are the same for men and women. Smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a family history of heart disease all elevate an individual’s risk. Obesity and lack of exercise also can contribute to the development of the disease.
“Diabetes, however, is a greater risk factor for women. While diabetes can triple a man’s risk for heart disease, it can raise the risk a woman faces by up to seven times,” Dr. Heintz said.
Dr. Russo noted that once women understand their risk factors, they can help prevent the development of heart disease by making simple lifestyle changes. “Regular exercise, especially following menopause, can help reduce weight gain, and this in turn can help manage cholesterol and diabetes, which accelerate the progression of heart disease,” Dr. Heintz said.
Talk to Your Doctor About Heart Disease Symptoms
Women have unique differences that may require special testing and treatment to provide the most effective cardiovascular care. To achieve better heart health for their female patients, the experts at the Cooper Heart Institute utilize sophisticated technology to provide the most advanced diagnostic testing and the latest in leading-edge treatment options.
“But having the most advanced technology available is only part of the equation,” Dr. Russo said. “It’s also vital to ensure that women have access to it. For example, women make up 50 percent of patients with atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder that affects millions of Americans. Yet, women represent only about 20 percent to 25 percent of those who undergo catheter ablation, a potentially curable procedure for the treatment of this problem.
“Because we understand potential gender differences in presentation and how certain cardiac conditions may uniquely affect women, we can ensure that women get the care they need and deserve,” Dr. Russo said.
“Above all,” added Dr. Heintz, “we want women to be persistent. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t wait. The sooner we can isolate the problem, the faster we can make your heart healthy again.”