Heart Disease – How is it different in women?

The following excerpt is from Sherry Torkos’ book Live Well: A Woman’s Guide to Optimum Health, published by John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd., Copyright 2007.

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, refers to diseases of the blood vessels and heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Canadian women. However, there are many ways to keep your heart healthy and to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Years ago it was thought that heart disease was the same for women and men. Today we know that there are unique factors in women:

  • Symptoms of a heart attack can be different for women. They may include fatigue, nausea, or pain in the shoulder, neck, or stomach, rather than the typical chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Heart disease more often affects women later in life than men. Nonetheless, younger women who have heart disease often do less well than men because it can be unrecognized by both the woman and her doctor.
  • Women often delay going to the doctor, or fail to seek treatment altogether.
  • Women are often treated less aggressively than men, and women’s symptoms may be dismissed as related to anxiety or emotions.
  • Women are more likely than men to die after a first heart attack.
  • Standard testing (angiogram) may not pick up heart disease in women due to differences in the formation of plaque. In women, plaque may form more smoothly against the artery walls, whereas in men it clumps up and is more apparent with testing. In addition, in some women the plaque buildup may be in the small vessels of the coronary arteries, which cannot be seen by the angiogram.
  • Women have been under-represented in the studies used to set the standards for detection and treatment of heart disease.
  • Women are more affected by stress, which is one of the common risk factors for heart disease. Stress causes the arteries to go into spasm and can trigger a heart attack. Women today have increased responsibilities— managing careers and taking care of the family and the home—and often put the needs of others ahead of their needs.

Taking It to Heart
While heart disease is the greatest health threat that women face, there is much that we can do to prevent it. The majority of the risk factors are under our control, so we can take the necessary steps—eating healthily, exercising regularly, not smoking, and reducing stress—to cut our risk of heart disease and improve our health.

Good health includes good financial health
Along with making healthy lifestyle choices, a financial plan is also important for your future. Part of that financial plan can include being prepared in case of a critical illness This part of your plan can help you recover financially and move past an illness. Critical illness insurance is one way to help you recover without financial pressures and without tapping into savings.

More information about women’s health issues is available in Sherry Torkos’ book Live Well: A Woman’s Guide to Optimum Health, available free of charge from www.toLiveWell.caLink to an external website. On the website you can also learn more about the importance of good financial health and creating a financial recovery plan should you become critically ill.

Sherry Torkos, Bsc Pharm (www.sherrytorkos.comLink to an external website) is a pharmacist, author, and certified fitness instructor. The website www.toLiveWell.caLink to an external website and Sherry Torkos’ Live Well Tips are brought to you by Sun Life Financial.

For further information contact me: Derek Strokon 604 649-1185


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