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 Should women take aspirin regularly?
The benefits of aspirin use in women are controversial. The most recent data from the Nurses’ Health
Study reported that women who take aspirin 81mg or 325mg daily are less likely to die than those who do not take aspirin:
❤25% less likely to die of any cause
❤38% less likely to die of heart disease or stroke
❤28% less likely to die of colon cancer
Of note, high dose aspirin use (greater than 325mg daily) is not beneficial and increases a woman’s risk of bleeding, hemorrhagic strokes—bleeding into the brain.
Older women, women with a history of cardiovascular disease or stroke and women with risk factors for heart disease benefit the most from the regular use of aspirin.
As always, the use of any medication should be discussed with your physician.
Dr. hope helfeld, Do, FACC
QWhat is ejection fraction?
The ejection fraction is how well your heart pumps. It is a very important value to know about your heart. A normal ejection fraction is greater than 55%. If you ejection fraction is less than 40% you can be at risk for arrhythmias – some life threatening. So next time you see your doctor, know your ejection fraction, just like you should know your cholesterol!
Dr. Dana Weinstein, Do
QWhat percentage of women develop hypertension during pregnancy?
Approximately 6 – 8 percent of women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Hypertension during pregnancy is defined as a systolic blood pressure > 140 mm Hg and or a diastolic blood pressure > 90 mm Hg.
Hypertensive disorders can complicate 10% to 20% of pregnancies. Hypertension is described as three categories:
❤ Chronic – Defined as hypertension present before pregnancy, before the 20th week of gestation, or persisting beyond the 42nd postpartum day.
❤Gestational – Develops in the last part of pregnancy, lacks clinical findings of preeclampsia, and resolves by 3 months postpartum.
❤ Preeclampsia – Hypertension associated with protein in the urine and edema. Dr. Rita A. Falcone, MD, FACC:
QWhat are other blood vessel diseases such as those in the legs, referred to as “peripheral artery disease (PAD)”?
PAD refers to build up of cholesterol in the arteries of the legs, just like the disease that builds up in the arteries of the heart. Patients with PAD do have a significantly increased risk of heart attack. The increase in PAD may be more significant in women because women live longer and will develop the disease when they are more elderly. Men are still more likely to be screened for PAD, rather than women, although the disease occurs with mostly
the same risk factors as those for heart disease. Like with disease of the heart arteries, women are more likely not to have symptoms. This may contribute to them having the disease recognized when more advanced disease is present, such as when leg pain occurs at rest or when there are non-healing ulcers of the legs, instead of being recognized at the start of the disease when there may be only mild calf discomfort with walking. The diagnosis is based on an accurate history and physical exam and then further noninvasive testing of the arteries of the legs. Let your doctor know early if you have “claudication” or tightness/pain in the hips, legs or calves when you walk any distance in order to raise suspicion early for PAD. They may forget to ask!
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