A heart attack occurs when there is a disruption in the flow of blood to a person’s heart and this can be life-threatening. For women, it’s important to know all the female-specific symptoms of the condition. Doing this can help them seek medical attention at the soonest possible time which, in turn, may save their life. It’s a fact that women have a lesser likelihood of surviving their first heart attack compared to men. Generally, women who suffer from heart attacks have unusual or even “silent” symptoms which aren’t as easy to spot. Aside from this, the biology of females creates unusual risk factors for the condition. In this article, we’ll learn all about heart attacks among women to keep all the sisters out there well-informed.
Causes and Risk Factors of Heart Attacks in Women
Heart disease has an impact on a person’s cardiovascular system as well as her blood vessels. Therefore, several health issues may result from this and a lot of them are related to the process known as atherosclerosis. This is a condition which occurs when plaque accumulates in the person’s arterial walls. The accumulation then makes the arteries narrower which, in turn, makes it harder for the blood to flow freely. Then if a blood clot starts to form in the artery, this can cause a stroke or a heart attack. Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t end there. In fact, heart disease comes in different forms:
- Congestive heart failure means that the woman’s heart still works but it’s not as efficient as before or it’s not getting sufficient oxygen.
- Arrhythmia means that the woman’s heart is beating irregularly, too slow or even too fast. This can then affect how well her heart functions and whether or not her heart is able to pump sufficient blood to meet her body’s requirements.
- Problems of the heart valves can also occur. This may result in the woman’s heart not opening up sufficiently to allow the proper flow of blood. Also, there are times when the valves of the heart don’t close and so the blood leaks through. Another problem is when the leaflets of the valve bulge into the heart’s upper chamber which causes the blood to flow backward through the leaflets.
Heart attacks in women also come with certain risk factors. It’s also important to be aware of these risk factors so that women can take extra precautions if they have them:
Age. Women ages 55 years and above have an increased risk of getting a heart attack. The reason for this is that their hormones provide them with some form of protection from the disease before they experience menopause.
Family History. A woman is considered to have a family history of heart attacks if she has a female relative who has suffered from a heart attack by the age of 65 or a male relative who has suffered from a heart attack by the age of 55. In such cases, the woman may also have an increased risk of getting a heart attack.
Health Status. There are certain markers such as high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure which increase the risk of heart attack in females and in males as well.
Medical Conditions. There are also some medical conditions which can be risk factors for this condition. These include:
Diabetes. Women who have diabetes have an increased risk of heart attacks than men who have diabetes.
Mental Stress. Women who suffer from mental stress, as well as depression, also have an increased risk of heart attack because their hearts are more affected. Also, depression makes it more difficult for women to follow and maintain a healthier lifestyle which, in turn, may cause a heart attack.
Cancer. Some drugs used for chemotherapy as well as radiation therapy may also increase the risk of the condition affecting the heart.
Pregnancy. If a woman is pregnant and there are some complications, this may also place her at a higher risk for the heart disease. That’s why it’s important to have regular check-ups while pregnant to make sure that everything is going smoothly.
Lifestyle Choices. A woman’s lifestyle choices may also put her at risk for heart attacks. In particular, if she doesn’t practice healthy lifestyle choices rather, she has habits such as:
Inactivity. For both genders, inactivity is a huge risk factor for heart attacks. Unfortunately, studies have shown that women are more prone to inactivity than men.
Smoking. When a woman smokes, this habit will place her at a greater risk than if a man has this habit.
Menopause. After a woman experiences menopause, she will have lower levels of estrogen which becomes a risk factor for developing heart disease.
Broken Heart Syndrome. This is a common condition among women which is usually caused by stressful situations. It can cause temporary but severe failure of the heart muscles. Usually, the condition is more common in women after they experience menopause.