Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 18th 2015 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for
Americans. It kills more women and men each year
than all types of cancer combined. The latest data
from the American Heart Association indicate that
cardiovascular disease causes one death every minute
among US women, 398,035 deaths yearly. And the
biggest villain among the heart conditions is coronary
artery disease, aka, hardening of the arteries, or ath-
But many women---and too often their doctors---
don t recognise symptoms of heart disease, a trend
identified in a survey by the Women s Heart Alliance.
"Quite honestly, we need to do the same thing for
heart health that we ve done with breast cancer," says
Beth Battaglino, RN, who is CEO of the nonprofit
HealthyWomen and a nurse at Riverview Medical
Center in Red Bank, New Jersey.
A new patient advocacy and education site called
Spread the Word that Battaglino and HealthyWomen
are working on with Nurse Practitioners in Women s
Health aims to get women to talking with other women
about heart disease.
Are you at risk for this quiet killer?
If you are a woman with silent coronary artery
disease (CAD), you may not realise that the arteries
leading to your heart can get partially blocked by a
build-up of plaque---fat, cells, and calcium---that sticks
to blood vessel walls, according to the American College
of Cardiology. But this can cause a heart attack, because
heart tissue that s starved of nutrient-rich blood supply
dies. "Women do not understand it s the No 1 killer,"
says Battaglino about heart disease. "Give her the tools
to find out about her risk. Women will share their
Battaglino was inspired to get involved in patient
advocacy for women because she was impressed by
Violet Bowen-Hugh, MD, a champion for women s
health who began the nonprofit national women s
health resource center now called HealthyWomen. "In
1988, a female ObGyn from West Virginia founded
our organisation. She believed all women needed to
be educated, regardless of their socio-economic back-
ground, to make educated decisions about their own
health," she says.
Now Battaglino hopes that more women will join
the conversation about CAD online, and become their
own advocates in the doctor s office. "Write a blog
post. Go on social media. Share what you learned with
friends and family," she urges. "If we don t take care
of ourselves, we won t be there to take care of those
Heart symptoms in women vs men
Women can all too easily overlook or not notice the
subtle symptoms of a heart condition like atheroscle-
rosis---including arm or back pain. Often, they remain
undiagnosed until after a heart attack or heart failure
from arterial blockage, notes the National Institutes
of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
"Symptoms present so differently in women than
in men," explains Battaglino. In women, coronary
artery disease may mimic other common, less deadly
ailments. Whereas a man is more likely to feel the
typical angina---sharp chest pain---women need to be
looking out for other possible symptoms, Battaglino
Women's symptoms of coronary artery disease can
• a feeling of tightness in your jaw
• upper back pain
• upper arm pain
• upper abdominal pain
• throat pain
• stomach pain
• weakness or fatigue that comes on suddenly
You, or a woman you love, could easily mistake the
pain of coronary artery disease for a pulled muscle.
Gut pains might seem like simple indigestion. Even
sudden-onset fatigue is too often explained away by
women who don t realize it could be heart related.
A silent threat to women's hearts many don't recognise
"Many women are often tired, and so could
easily dismiss that. But it could be a sign of
coronary artery disease," says Battaglino.
When to have the heart-health
At your annual well-woman check-up,
you can become your own patient advocate.
You don t have to wait until a cardiologist
diagnoses you with heart disease. At your
yearly visit, take advantage of the opportunity
to find out more about how your heart is
working. "It s so important to have the con-
versation about heart health when you visit
the OB/GYN or primary care provider," says
Battaglino. "If they tell you your blood pres-
sure is a little high, for example, ask what
does that mean?" This way, you can under-
stand what your heart is telling you in the
results of routine, but vital, heart-health
tests like blood pressure.
When you get to the few precious minutes
you have with your doctor, tell them about
any symptoms that could point to heart
disease. "You want to bring up anything
that s bothering you like indigestion, pain
in the upper arm, back, or neck, tightness
in the jaw. Remember, women present dif-
ferently than men," Battaglino says.
She suggests writing down the questions
you want to ask before you go in. This is
good advice not only for yourself, but for
family members who may be getting ready
for their annual primary care visit.
The best way to get the most you can
out of your visit is to prepare. Get the edu-
cation and tools that can help you under-
stand your heart and signs of heart disease
from online heart-health resources, and share
them with the women in your life.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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