Heart Disease and Menopause
Heart disease kills more women than any other disease. In fact, almost 5 times as many women die from heart attacks each year than die from breast cancer. In 2010, 1 in 30 female deaths was from breast cancer, 1 in 6 from heart disease. It is estimated that 345,000 women will have a heart attack this year.
We have discovered that women are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease not only as a consequence of increased age, but because of the natural withdrawal of estrogen at menopause. Estrogen is believed to play a part in protecting women against heart disease, yet its direct role is not completely understood. What we do know is that on average, women develop heart disease 10 years later than men. During the years prior to menopause, women have one-fifth the rate of heart disease as men of the same age; however, by age 65, women’s risk is equal to that of their male counterparts.
It is often thought that chest pain is the most important heart attack symptom for both men and women; however, it is increasingly evident that women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s in matters of the heart. Surprisingly, forty-three percent of women report having no chest pain during any phase of their attack. More commonly, women experience new or different physical symptoms for a month of more prior to an attack. The symptoms are that of angina, a precursor to a heart attack and often a symptom of coronary heart disease. Angina occurs when an area of your heart muscle does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. Women who experience angina describe it as a feeling of tightness, heaviness, pressure or squeezing in the chest. It may be accompanied by unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety. Some women may experience pain in their shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back.
I will be hosting the Red Hot Mamas program on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at Portneuf Medical Center. The seminar will focus on “Heart Disease and Menopause.” I invited you to come and find out more about cardiovascular disease, risk factors, common early warning signs, prevention and ways to stay heart healthy. Doors open at 6pm and the presentation will begin at 6:30. There will be a question and answer session following the presentation. Registration is preferred; to register, call Portneuf at 208-239-1048 or register online at portmed.org/rhm. To learn more about upcoming events and seminars at PMC, like us on Facebook.
At menopause, all women should undergo a careful assessment of their risk factors and begin a dialogue with their primary care physician about ways to prevent this serious, life-threatening disease.
To reach my office, Portneuf Heart & Lung Surgeons call 208-239-2580. To reach Pocatello Cardiology call 208-234-2001.
Dr. DeLaRosa is a board certified in both General Surgery & Cardiothoracic Surgery.