Women's Health Alert: Fighting Heart Disease in Your 40s

<em>Steady Increase in Cardiovascular Deaths Affects Younger Women</em><br/>Dr. Holly Andersen of the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute Offers Women Tips on Recognizing a Heart Attack and Reducing Their Risk of Heart Disease

Feb 1, 2012


The risk for heart-related death is increasing in young adults ages 35 to 54, and the numbers are even more alarming for younger women. It is the number-one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, yet every year since 1984 more women have died of cardiovascular health problems than men, according to the American Heart Association.

"Although there has been a general decline in deaths caused by heart disease, the last decade has seen a steady increase among younger women ages 35 to 44. Women account for more than 50 percent of deaths due to heart disease and 60% of stroke deaths in this country," says Dr. Holly Andersen, the director of education and outreach for the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Andersen offers the following advice to women on how to stay healthy, know their risk factors, and get the best medical treatments to take better care of their hearts.

  • Enjoy yourself. Eat right, be active, attempt to get a good night's sleep, practice stress reduction, and enjoy fun times with friends. Women who regularly spend time with close friends have less heart disease.
  • Know the warning signs of an attack. Women oftentimes do not experience the crushing chest pain that is so often associated with a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms which may include neck, shoulder or abdominal pain. Others may just have nausea, vomiting, fatigue or shortness of breath, Most women experiencing a heart attack know that something is wrong.
  • Test for the silent attack. Some women however feel no pain at all and experience what is known as a "silent heart attack." Silent heart attacks lead to long-term shortage of blood and oxygen flow to the heart. If you are a post-menopausal woman and have at least three risk factors for heart disease, you should discuss with your doctor the types of test available to determine if you have coronary artery disease.
  • Know your risk factors. Your risk of having a heart attack greatly increases if you are obese/overweight, a smoker, have high cholesterol and/or diabetes. There are also several risk factors that are of particular importance to women:
    • Smoking greatly increases the risk of heart attack for women under the age of 45. The combination of smoking and birth control pills increases a woman's risk by at least 20-fold.
    • High C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels are a marker of inflammation that has been shown to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular risk. Ask your doctor to check your level with a simple blood test.
    • Experiencing complications during pregnancy can be an indicator of future cardiovascular disease for moms. Women who have had preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or hypertension or have delivered low-birth-weight babies should aggressively manage all risk factors for heart disease.
    • According to the American Heart Association, low-levels of good cholesterol (HDL) are a stronger predictor of heart disease death in women than in men over 65.
  • Call 911. The most recent survey from the AHA showed that only 53% of women who believe that were having a heart attack would call 911. Time is muscle and can mean the difference between life and death. If you think you are having a heart attack, do not wait — call 911. Emergency medical teams can begin to treat patients before they arrive at the hospital and save precious time that is often lost when patients try to drive themselves to the emergency room.
  • Get an EKG. Once a woman does arrive in the emergency room it is important to ask for an EKG test or an enzyme blood test to check for a heart attack, since medical professionals may attribute a woman's symptoms to other health conditions such as indigestion.

For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS.

Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

The Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center functions as a "medical town square" complete with a patient-friendly welcome center and a clinical trials enrollment center. The Institute expands upon the Hospital's cardiac care expertise and connect all cardiac services, from treating life-threatening arrhythmias to complex coronary artery disease. It also focuses on translational and clinical research efforts aimed at new ways to diagnose and treat patients with heart disease. New interventional cardiology labs allow physicians to continue to develop advances in minimally invasive procedures that ensure quicker recovery and shorter hospital stays for patients.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease; the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and Weill Cornell Medical College.

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