Both men and women benefit from making healthier food choices, becoming more active, losing some weight and, if needed, taking medicines to improve blood fats (lipids) and lower blood pressure. However, there are differences in how men and women respond to these measures. For example, men recover from coronary artery bypass surgery better than women. This is thought to be because women have smaller arteries in their heart because of their generally smaller body size. This makes operating on women’s hearts more of a challenge. Women also tend to be older and more ill at the time of the heart surgery. This adds to the danger and to the recovery process.
SYMPTOMS ARE DIFFERENT
Most people know the usual signs of a heart attack: tightness in the chest, arm pain and shortness of breath. A “clot-busting” medicine often is used when people have a heart attack, and it works best when given as early as possible. However, women may have symptoms that are more hidden than those of men, so they tend to be treated with this medicine much later. Women may feel nausea, back pain, burning in the chest, abdominal discomfort, tiredness or dizziness.
WHAT CHOLESTEROL CAN TELL YOU
Another warning sign that is different between men and women is the amount of good cholesterol in the blood stream. There are two types of cholesterol: the bad (LDL) that clogs up blood vessels and the good (HDL) that helps remove cholesterol from the body. In both men and women, a low level of HDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. But in women, low levels of HDL cholesterol are an even greater predictor of the risk of dying from heart disease than in men.
Prevention for All
Heart disease kills more women each year than the next 14 causes of death combined. In 1997, heart disease killed about twice as many women as all forms of cancer added together. The best action for both men and women to prevent heart disease is to eat healthily and be physically active.