More women die from heart disease than from any other cause. About one in five American women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances (plaque).
Heart disease is a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and how it works.
Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease where the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is the leading cause of death in the United States.
About 18.2 million American adults have coronary artery disease, making it the most common type of heart disease in the United States.
Sometimes, coronary heart disease is “silent”, meaning you may not have any symptoms until you experience a heart attack or other complication. This can make coronary heart disease hard to diagnose before a problem occurs.
Most common are:
▪ Angina, or chest pain caused by the heart can feel like pressure, squeezing, indigestion, burning, or tightness, and is sometimes related to physical activity. The pain or discomfort usually starts behind the breastbone, but it can also occur in the arms, shoulders, jaw, throat, or back.
▪ Cold sweats.
▪ Nausea or a feeling of indigestion.
▪ Neck pain.
▪ Shortness of breath, especially with activity.
▪ Sleep disturbances.
However, women are less likely than men to experience chest pain with a heart attack. Instead, they are more likely to experience:
▪ Extreme tiredness.
▪ Pressure or tightness in the chest.
▪ Stomach pain.
You may also have some symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or neck pain, that go away with rest and come back with activity. Chest pain or discomfort that does not go away, or happens more often might be a sign of a heart attack.
Your doctor will likely:
▪ Assess risk factors to help evaluate your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
▪ Check blood pressure readings to see whether you have high blood pressure.
▪ Calculate your body mass index and waist circumference to see whether you have an unhealthy weight.
▪ Order blood tests to see whether you have high blood cholesterol, high blood triglycerides, or diabetes.
Using the following:
▪ An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to determines whether the heart’s rhythm is steady or irregular. An EKG also records the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through the heart.
▪ A coronary calcium scan.
▪ Stress tests check how your heart works during physical stress. During stress testing, you walk or run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike to make your heart work hard and beat fast. If you have a medical problem that prevents you from exercising, your doctor may give you medicine to make your heart work hard, as it would during exercise. To detect reduced blood flow to your heart muscle, while you exercise you will be monitored by ECG and possibly echocardiogram or CT scan.
▪ Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
▪ Cardiac positron emission tomography (PET) scanning.
▪ Coronary angiography.
▪ Coronary computed tomographic angiography.
In men, the risk for coronary heart disease starts to increase around age 45. Before menopause, women have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than men. After around age 55, the risk for women goes up. This is likely because women have less estrogen (a female hormone) after menopause.
Furthermore, your work can raise your risk if you:
▪ Are exposed to toxins, radiation, or other hazards.
▪ Have a lot of stress at work.
▪ Sit for long periods.
▪ Work more than 55 hours a week, or work long, irregular, or night shifts that affect your sleep.
Also, being physically inactive can worsen other heart disease risk factors, and so would not getting enough good quality sleep, smoking or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as unhealthy eating patterns.
If your doctor diagnoses you with coronary heart disease based on symptoms and tests, your treatment may include heart-healthy lifestyle changes in combination with medication.
Your goal could be:
▪ Losing weight.
▪ Being physically active.
▪ Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but limiting saturated fats, sodium (salt), added sugars, and alcohol.
▪ Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems.
▪ Quitting smoking.
▪ Getting enough good-quality sleep, that is 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day for adults.
Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke. Most adults should try at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate intensity activity. Take the stairs instead of an elevator.
For healthy adults, alcohol moderation means one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men.
Did you know that just one year after you quit smoking, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent?
Some medicines can reduce or prevent chest pain, and manage other medical conditions that may contribute to your coronary heart disease, such as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers, Calcium channel blockers, empagliflozin, canagliflozin, and liraglutide, Metformin, Nitrates (nitroglycerin), Ranolazine, Statins or non-statin therapies.
Or, you may need a procedure or heart surgery to treat more serious coronary heart disease, including Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and Transmyocardial laser revascularization or coronary endarterectomy.