What are the symptoms of heart problems in women? Because these symptoms vary from men, many women do not recognize them as warning signs that could lead to long term heart problems or even death. Heart attacks kill more women than men, and more women over age 65 will die from heart attacks than all cancers combined. Younger women are equally at risk. Despite the statistics, many people see heart disease as problem for men. For all of these reasons, women must know the signs and symptoms of heart disease, which can show up months or years before an actual heart attack occurs.
Metabolic Syndrome - Doctors and researchers have coined this term to categorize a set of health problems inherent in people with a high risk for heart problems. These risk factors are:
Depression - Women that lead very stressful lives and suffer from depression are more likely to have heart problems. Stress can increase blood pressure, which damages arteries. Also, depressed people suffer from a variety of other lifestyle and health issues that, in turn, can lead to heart disease, if none is present before, or increase complications after suffering a heart attack. For instance, depressed people are less likely to follow medical advice or adhere to medical programs. They are less likely to exercise and eat right. They may drink more and have few friends and family for support. Depression exacerbates current health problems and may be a leading factor in causing others.
Smoking - The Surgeon General and anti-smoking campaigns have made the public very aware of the harm that cigarettes can do to the lungs body. Not as well known is what cigarette smoking can do to the heart and arteries. Cigarette smoking lowers HDL and causes a build up of arterial fat known as atherosclerosis. This can lead to a heart attack. The risk factor increases for women who take oral contraceptives and smoke.
Low Estrogen Levels - Scientists believe that estrogen plays a part in protecting women’s hearts from heart disease. Researchers have discovered a link between low estrogen levels and heart disease. When these researchers looked at pre and post menopausal women with heart disease, both groups had low estrogen. While researchers aren’t exactly sure what role estrogen plays in protecting the heart, they believe this link is significant. However, the causal factors are still under investigation.
Lack of Physical Activity - Regular physical activity has a variety of benefits to the body including lowering blood lipid counts, maintaining a good weight or BMI, raising HDL cholesterol, reducing blood pressure. People who do not engage in regular physical activity miss these benefits and therefore increase their risk of heart disease by increasing their chance of being overweight, having high blood pressure, having metabolic syndrome, or being obese.
Obesity - Being obese increases the risk of heart problems because people in this category most likely have many of the symptoms already mentioned. They will mostly likely already have all or part of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Excess weight increases the chance of becoming diabetic.
Diabetes - Diabetics are twice as prone to heart disease as non-diabetics. The estrogen that protects women in their younger years may be cancelled out with Type I or II diabetes. Diabetics have a problem maintaining their blood sugar levels due to problems with insulin production. The high blood sugar leaves fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which will eventually cause heart problems such as atherosclerosis.
Many of these risk factors are interconnected. This means that having one often means that another is present. This works in reverse too; beginning to eliminate one will help in eliminating some of the other factors. Knowing what are the symptoms of heart problems in women might help in recognizing problems before they become severe and possibly decrease the number of women who die from heart disease.