Ask the Doc
A woman’s heart is different…Women can suffer the same devastating effects of heart disease as men, but may experience signs and symptoms of a heart attack that vary from a man’s. Diagnosis and treatment is also different. It is important for women to know how heart disease can affect their health and how the warning signs of a heart attack can be different from a man’s.
Dr. Donna Reed, DO, FACC
Q What is the Number 1 Cause of Death in American Women?
A Cardiovascular Disease
❤ Each year heart disease kills more women than men.
❤38% of women die within one year of suffering a heart attack, compared to 25% of men.
❤Heart disease kills more women than the next 5 causes of death combined.
❤Only 8% of women consider cardiovascular disease their greatest health risk, yet nearly 1 in 2 will die of it.
Dr. Hope Helfeld, DO, FACC
Q Where do palpitations come from?
A Palpitations are a very common complaint and may be the first symptoms of arrhythmia. It can feel like a thump in your chest, or a racing heart beat. Some possible causes of palpitations can be:
Isolated extra beats coming from the top of the heart (premature atrial complexes (PACs)) or the bottom of the heart (premature ventricular complexes (PVCs).
❤ A sustained (longer lasting) rapid heart beat that originates from the upper chambers of the heart. » Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) » Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
❤ A rapid heart rate that originates from the lower chambers of the heart. » Ventricular tachycardia (VT)
Sometimes, a sensation of palpitations occurs and no arrhythmia is detected. This may be due to other factors such as stress or emotional disorders. However, in such circumstances, it is essential that a thorough evaluation by your physician be performed to rule out any possibility of a physical cause.
Dr. Dana Weinstein, DO
Q What cardiac changes can you expect with pregnancy?
A During pregnancy changes occur to the heart and blood vessels that add stress on a woman’s body and increase the work of the heart. These changes include an increase in blood volume, cardiac output, and heart rate, and a decrease in blood pressure. A woman’s blood volume increases by 40 percent. As a result, the amount of blood pumped per minute also increases by 40 percent. In addition, her heart rate increases by 10 to 15 beats per minute and blood pressure may decrease by 10 mmHg during pregnancy. After delivery, these changes will normally revert to your pre-pregnancy measurements.
Dr. Rita A. Falcone, MD, FACC:
Q What should I know about plaque build up in other arteries such as the carotid arteries of the neck that can lead to stroke?
A Misperceptions still exist that blood vessel disease in the heart, legs and carotid arteries is not as prevalent in women. The blood vessels are all part of a connected “tree” in the body, so it isn’t surprising that having plaque in one territory can also relate to plaque in another territory in this “tree”. It is estimated that there are 3.9 million stroke survivors alive today. Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke. In reality, because the life expectancy for women is greater than that for men, the highest rates of stroke are in the oldest age groups. More women than men die of stroke and stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability. A simple exam of the carotid arteries of the neck is useful in addition to an ultrasound of these arteries when indicated. Of course, prevention is key. Risk factors for heart attack and for blood vessel disease of the leg are similar to those for stroke, so, risk factor awareness and adjustment is critical.
Publisher Note. We are excited to begin this new series, “ASK THE DOC” and honored to have the privilege of partnering with The Chester County Hospital expert cardiologists (pictured.)*
(*See page 30 and 31 to read profiles on each of these outstanding physicians)
Have Questions For Our DOCs? We invite you to send in your questions for our “docs” and your Q and A will be published* in subsequent issue of T he Women’s Journal (*Anonymity available upon request.)
Email: Submit question(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put Ask The Doc in subject line.
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