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Heart attack risk among women on the rise

The rate of heart attacks among women is on the rise.

Each year, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Signs and symptoms of heart attacks for women are less subtle than those for men.

Women often brush these symptoms off as signs of anxiety or stress.

In reality, your body could be in higher danger than you may think.

Director of Medical Preventive Cardiology at Yuma Regional Medical Center, Dr. Preeti Chandra defines a heart attack as a blockage of a blood vessel that supplies the heart, leading to the death of the heart muscle.

“Dying muscle gets chest pain and that is what is termed as a heart attack or Myocardial Infarction,” said Dr. Chandra.

The ARIC study (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) that took place in the 1980s , followed the trend of heart attack risks among young women between the age of 35-54.

The overall number of heart attack-related hospital admissions increased from 27% in 1995-99 to 32% in 2010-14.

“They looked at young patients and the incidence of hospitalizations for heart attacks in these young patients and they found that the incidence of heart attacks and young women has grown more than the incidence of heart attacks in men from 1995 to 1999 and 2010 to 2014 so there’s been a significant increase which calls for attention,” said Dr. Chandra.

Chandra says what used to be a risk for older patients, has instead been more common for these younger patients.

“Previously it was an older age group disease for older people but nowadays the younger people are getting more risk factors,” said Dr. Chandra.

Another study looked at how gender plays a role in the perception of cardiac symptoms.

“In that study, they studied how these patients are presented differently how women are presenting differently than men are they having more chest pain like symptoms or are they having atypical symptoms,” said Dr. Chandra.

This study showed that women are more likely to see their health care provider, but tell them that the symptoms are anxiety related.

On the other hand, men are more likely to attribute symptoms to their heart being at risk.

There are several risk factors to be aware of.

“Stress, stress is a huge one, sleep deprivation, that causes an increase in blood pressure, lack of awareness, diet, exercise, and people are less cognizant about the risk factors,” said Dr. Chandra.

Risks also include a history of heart attacks in a person’s family or if you have already had a heart attack in the past.

Heart attack symptoms can include shortness of breath; or feeling pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

After experiencing any of these symptoms for longer than a few minutes, women should call 911.

“An EKG can be promptly done and we can determine if he or she is having a heart attack and then right away we can open the blood vessel that has been blocked,” said Dr. Chandra.

There are many factors that can decrease your risk of heart attacks .

“Start becoming active. You can exercise 25 minutes a day five days a week that causes a significant reduction in your cardiovascular mortality risk. Know your risk, by that I mean know your family history. If you’re a smoker quit smoking. If you’re eating too many fried foods and red meat and that kind of unhealthy foods decrease those and adopt a healthy diet,” said Dr. Chandra.

Awareness is the most important thing an at-risk patient can have.

“Traditionally we have not talked much about heart disease in women and it’s now people are becoming more and more aware of it and I think that spreading the word about heart disease in these populations will help patients become more aware and start seeking care when they need to,” said Dr. Chandra.

Chandra says she wants women to speak up if you feel you may be at risk for a heart attack.

“Two things I’m going to ask all women to do is if you have subtle symptoms if you have unusual symptoms if you don’t think it’s the heart but you have the slightest doubt that this might be heart-related , then speak to your physician, speak to your practitioner. I think all women should have the sisterhood of talking about heart disease so if any of you have heart disease talk to others about it,” said Dr. Chandra.

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