Heart Disease in Women

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The number leading cause of death among women in the United States (US) is heart disease; it is also the leading cause of disability among women. Currently, “8 million women in the US are living with heart disease; 35,000 are under the age of 65” (Women’s Heart Foundation, 2011). Among American women in 2005 over 36 million were age 55 or older increasing their risk of coronary heart disease (Garvin, Moser, Riegel, McKinley, Doering, & An, 2003). . Coronary heart disease claims the lives of over 200,000 females yearly. The disease more significantly impacts African-American women than white women. In 2002, their death rate from coronary heart disease was 169.7 compared to 131.2 for white women (American Heart Association, 2011). Coronary heart disease is most often caused by a condition called arteriosclerosis, which takes place when a fatty material along with a substance called plaque builds up along the walls of the coronary arteries causing them to become narrow and restrictive. As the coronary arteries grow rigid and narrow, the combination can restrict the blood flow to the heart causing it to stop or slow down resulting in chest pain, stable angina, shortness of breath, along with other symptoms, eventually resulting in a heart attack (Blank & Smithline, 2002). However, most individuals with coronary artery disease do not display symptoms of the disease for decades, even as it progresses. The first onsets of symptoms are often sudden resulting in myocardial infarctions, also known as heart attacks. (American Heart Association, 2011; DeVon, & Zerwic, 2003). Some but not all of the causes of the disorder are the same in men and women. Risk factors that increase the chances of heart disease are: high blood cholesterol levels, high levels of low-density lipoprotein and low levels of high-density lipoproteins, hypertension, diabetes, family history, cigarette smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity (Coronary Artery Disease: Disease/Disorder Overview, 2006). “Every Time we turn around, we find more gender differences; this is why it’s so important to study” (Grady, 2006). Women with chest pain and other heart symptoms are more prone to have clear coronary arteries when tests are performed unlike with men. In a situation where women do have blocked coronary arteries, they tend to be older than men with similar blockages and have worse symptoms, including more chest pain and disability (Edwards, Albert, Wang & Apperson-Hanson, 2005; Grady, 2006). Women are also more likely than men to develop heart failure, a weakening of the heart muscle that can be fatal. For women suffering severe coronary heart disease, a coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) could be used to avoid a heart attack. CABG is used to remove severe blockages in heart arteries that supply blood to the major part of the heart. This treatment is especially effective if the heart has been weakened and not pumping effectively. (Mayo Clinic, 2008) Surgical procedures are the most drastic of measures in treating coronary heart disease. Angioplasty can restore blood flow to the heart if the coronary arteries have become narrowed or blocked. Angioplasty is done on more than 1 million people a year in the United States (Edwards, Albert, Wang & Apperson-Hansen, 2005). . When women have bypass surgery or balloon procedures for coronary blockages, they are less likely than men to have good outcomes, and are more likely to suffer from bad side effects. Blood tests also that are reliable when testing on men are less reliable for women. Women also are more likely than men to develop a type of heart failure in response to severe emotional stress. (Grady 2006). Although prevention through healthy lifestyle choices is the best approach to avoiding coronary heart disease, as it is preventable in women, there are treatments available. Women at risk for coronary heart disease, including those with a history of it in their family, may be prescribed medications to help...
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