By Bernard Freeman
While both men and women are at risk for heart disease and related problems, the symptoms and outcomes can vary greatly by gender. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, on average, cardiovascular issues develop seven to 10 years later in women.
Of course, many variables may introduce the disease earlier for both sexes. Factors like family medical history, lifestyle and diet can accelerate the buildup of plaque in our arteries which put us at serious risk for a heart attack or other problems. Regardless of gender, the American Heart Association encourages us to do the following: be physically active; don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke; and choose a healthy eating plan.
It’s also beneficial to participate in regular wellness exams with a qualified medical professional. They can identify problems and develop a treatment plan. Stay on top of your heart health by understanding the distinct differences between men and women.
Heart Disease in Women
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 16 women aged 20 and older has coronary heart disease. A unique culprit of heart disease in women is linked to pregnancy. Experts at the Harvard Medical School state that the presence of eclampsia or preeclampsia while pregnant can cause enough stress to the cardiovascular system to double the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Postmenopausal women may also experience an unusual change of shape in the heart muscle called Tako-tsubo cardiomyopathy. A factor like severe emotional stress is prone to affecting electrical activity that often feels like a heart attack.
While symptoms for both genders include nausea, sweating and shortness of breath, the Mayo Clinic warns women that they are more likely to experience them while resting or even asleep.
Heart Disease in Men
Half of the men who die suddenly from coronary heart disease suffer no previous symptoms. This startling fact from the CDC shows the importance for males to maintain wellness checks and to be honest with their physicians about their health concerns.
Symptoms men will generally feel include chest or upper back pain, extreme fatigue, swelling ankles and fluttering feelings in the chest. Factors like an unhealthy diet and excessive alcohol use are significant contributors to heart disease found in men.