Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer – combined. Yet, despite the fact that it kills approximately 60 women every hour – yes, a woman every minute1 – ruling out the silent killer can be difficult to do amongst females. This, because Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – one of the most common forms of heart disease – is more difficult to detect in women than it is in men.
Various biological sex-specific differences cause women to be more likely than men to present atypical symptoms of CAD, like for example tightness or pressure in the throat, jaw, shoulder abdomen, back or arms. Women also at times have other less than common symptoms when experiencing CAD like nausea, vomiting, and sudden onsets of weakness.
These symptoms can often be associated with other, less serious conditions, leaving doctors at times guessing as to the diagnosis. That is of course, without running various (often times high radiation) tests such as Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (MPI) – which is known to have the radiation levels of nearly 40 mammograms2.
I had a chance to interview Beth Battaglino, RN. She has worked in the health care industry for nearly 20 years, helping to define and drive public education programs on a broad range of women's health issues ranging from cancer to of course – heart health. Beth is a practicing registered nurse, and CEO of the non-profit organization HealthyWomen.
1. AHA. About Heart Disease in Women. Available at: www.goredforwomen.org/home/about-heart-disease-in-women/. Last accessed December 17, 2014.2. Fazel, et al. N Engl J Med. 2010;361:849-857