Women Face Special Concerns When It Comes To Heart Disease

Health experts say it's a message all women need to hear, even if they've heard it before.

Heart disease remains the leading killer of women, but many of us still ignore the symptoms.

Carol Bragden, ARNP, PhD, of the Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center says women have a history of caring for others and neglecting themselves, which makes them more prone to ignore symptoms.

Bragdon admits the symptoms can be tricky for women when it comes to the heart. Women are less likely to fell the classic chest pain and, instead, might feel fatigue, pain in the back, neck or jaw, or indigestion.

Bragden says women should pay attention any sudden onset of symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath or heartburn when it's something they haven't experienced it before. In short, she says, if it's new or of unusual intensity, don't ignore it.

Bragden says women do have some physical attributes that can make them more prone to cardiovascular issues. For example, she says, women tend to have smaller vessels, which means less area to clog before there's a problem. Those smaller vessels also can make it more difficult to maneuver with stents and balloons and other tools used to open those vessels.

It all adds up to a great need to take steps to keep the heart healthy. Recent studies show smoking impacts women even moreso then men. Plus, new guidelines issued this week could put more people, both men and women, on cholesterol lowering statins. Doctors now will consider things like diabetes, high blood pressure and family history in deciding with to prescribe the medications. The decision will be made more on a patient's risks, Bragden said, rather than looking solely at set numbers for cholesterol levels.

You can help to raise awareness of heart disease in women at the annual Go Red for Women luncheon. It's December 6, 2013, at the downtown Ramada in Topeka. Tickets are $45 and may be reserved at www.topekagoredforwomen.org. The event includes lunch, speakers, educational information and a red purse silent auction. Proceeds benefit the American Heart Association.

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