Heart Disease in Women Versus Men

Heart attack symptoms infographic

He might have a man cave… and she might take up most of the closet space. He might not stop for directions… and she might ask at every light.

There may be a lot of differences between men and women, but when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, it turns out there may not be many differences at all. Susan Brozena, MD, heart failure specialist and former medical director for Penn Cardiology Radnor, says getting back to basics for cardiovascular health is a good preventative idea for men and women.

“When we talk about prevention of heart disease — for anyone — we always make sure we talk about exercise, good nutrition, quitting smoking and preventative tests and checkups,” says Dr. Brozena. “These are true for both men and women.”Women and heart disease graphic

Dr. Brozena says a main difference in heart disease prevention in men and woman is the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. “Most studies show that women who use HRT in the short term — one or two years — don’t increase their risk of heart disease,” says Dr. Brozena. “However, long-term usage of HRT — more than a couple of years — may increase risk.” Dr. Brozena adds that not many women are using HRT for long-term treatment of menopausal symptoms anymore.

He Said, She Said?

Heart disease is still the number one killer of women in the United States and is more deadly than all types of cancer. While there may be no differences in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in men and women, Dr. Brozena says the warning signs of heart disease can be different. “When more women recognize the signs of heart disease, or a heart attack, more women can seek treatment earlier,” says Dr. Brozena.

Heart disease symptoms in women are different than in men. “Symptoms of a heart attack in women may include dizziness, jaw pain and nausea or other gastrointestinal discomfort,” says Dr. Brozena. “The first symptom isn’t always a severe pain in the chest like we see on television and in movies. It can be much more subtle than that.”

And, as Dr. Brozena points out, many women dismiss the symptoms because they simply don’t have the time to get sick. “As women, we are usually the caregivers and managers of the household,” she says. “Often times, women brush off pain or an odd feeling or sensation simply because they don’t have the time to step away from their daily life and focus on themselves.”

Know your risk.

Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist today,

or call 800-789-7366 (PENN).

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