Dr. Mitch Shulman: Heart disease in women not the same as in men – The Suburban Newspaper


Posted: February 19, 2020 at 8:47 am

What is the number one cause of premature death in women? If you said heart disease youd be right, but the fact of the matter is that many women and men dont know that. From making the right diagnosis to getting the right treatment to how long it takes to recover, women do worse than men.

A study published in 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that female patients are two to three times more likely to survive a heart attack when the doctor taking care of them is also a woman. Women treated by male physicians were the least likely to survive a heart attack. That difference was reduced when the male doctors worked in emergency rooms with a higher percentage of female physicians.

Women arent men! Their hearts and arteries are smaller and plaque builds up in their blood vessels differently. However, two-thirds of the clinical research into heart disease was done on men. A heart attack happens because the blood supply is cut off by an accumulation of plaque in the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with the oxygen and nourishment it needs to work. That blockage results in the death of heart muscle.

Men and women, in spite of the process being the same, may not develop the same symptoms. In men, the classic symptom of a heart attack is a crushing discomfort in the center of the body, which to some men can feel like indigestion rather than pain. Women can get that but they can just as often suddenly develop unexplained nausea or overwhelming loss of strength. Or, they can suddenly and unexpectedly be extremely short of breath or lightheaded.

It would be easy to mistake these symptoms for anxiety or stress which is what can happen when a middle aged women sees her doctor with these complaints. This is why its so important to get the word out so that people and especially women and their doctors know what to be on the lookout for. Forewarned is forearmed and so hopefully well miss less of these cases.

The good news is that everyone, male or female, can benefit from the same preventive measures. Eating well, losing weight, controlling high blood pressure and sugar, regular exercise and not smoking work for both men and women so you can do them together to stay healthy.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. Hes also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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Dr. Mitch Shulman: Heart disease in women not the same as in men - The Suburban Newspaper

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