Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Crescent City Physicians, Inc.
Women and Heart Disease: Symptoms You Should Not Ignore
Many women visit their gynecologist every year to follow recommendations for Pap smear and Mammogram, and for most of them we are the only physician they will see. It is important that during that visit we provide all information pertinent to their overall health. Your gynecologist cannot only provide primary care, they can also help guide and refer patients to specialist and or Internal Medicine physicians who can help us manage women’s overall health.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in females in the United States, 1 in 4 women die from heart disease. The majority of women between the ages of 40 and 60 have at least one risk factor for the disease. But many do not realize it. The risk increases as we age, especially after menopause. The groundwork for heart disease can start in your 20s.
A common form of heart disease is Coronary Artery Disease, which affects the blood vessels and arteries that supply the heart and can lead to a heart attack. Even though chest pain is the most commonly reported symptom for heart disease in women, symptoms may not always be severe for them to seek help. In some women other symptoms of heart disease may be present which may include:
- Neck pain
- Right arm or shoulder pain
- Abdominal discomfort sometimes described as heartburn
- Shortness of breath with activity
Risk factors for heart disease can be divided into those that suggest a major risk and those that lead to an increased risk.
Major risk factors are:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
- Obesity or being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
Factors that could lead to an increased risk include stress and excessive alcohol consumption. For women, that means more than 1 drink a day.
Knowing your risk factors is vital. The more risk factors you have and the worse they are the greater your risk for heart disease. Once you know your risk factors, you can learn whether you’re at high, intermediate, or low risk for heart disease.
During your yearly visit these symptoms should not be ignored and should be reported to your physician, who can start your workup not only by ordering test but can also provide information about cardiovascular specialists. This can be the first step you take to reduce your risk of heart disease. Other steps to reduce the risk of heart disease include the below lifestyle changes:
- Reach and keep a healthy weight – you will reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes risk
- Trim saturated fat and salt from your diet
- Exercise – exercising at a moderate to high intensity for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week, can lower your blood pressure.
- Limit alcohol intake
- Quit smoking – smoking is the most common risk factor for women. It triples your heart attack risk.
- De-stress daily
Next time you visit your gynecologist, remember we are here as part of a team of physicians dedicated to help you reach your health goals.
About Arelis Figueroa, MD
Arelis Figueroa, MD started practicing obstetrics and gynecology with Crescent City Physicians in 2014. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she earned her Medical degree in 2008. She completed her Obstetrics and Gynecology training at LSU New Orleans in 2012. Dr. Figueroa is fluent in both Spanish and English.
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