Women’s Heart Health is overlooked and Confused with Anxiety


According to a cardiologist, they often arrive at the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack, but are dismissed out of concern.

Although women are the most frequent patients in hospitals and doctors’ offices, heart health care is still neglected in this part of society. According to the Brazilian Society of Cardiology (SBC), between 1965 and 1998 they represented only 38% of individuals who had periodic consultations – the number has not changed until today.

“Unfortunately, when a female person is admitted to the hospital with complaints of tiredness, difficulty sleeping and shortness of breath, it is very common for her to associate this with psychological problems. Out of 100 women aged between 25 and 40, 42 of them do not they feel chest pain when they have a heart attack, so the diagnosis is wrong”, warns cardiologist Salit Nassif, from Hicor, in São Paulo.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the main causes of death for women in Brazil, surpassing breast cancer, for example. Of every 100,000 people, 67 die from coronary artery disease (blocked arteries) and 57 from stroke.

The main risk factors for heart disease are similar to those of men, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. But, in them, polycystic ovary syndrome, use of hormonal contraceptives, gestational hypertension, adverse events in pregnancy, hormone therapy for menopause and combined risks for inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and depressive disorders are considered risks.

Anxiety and Stress

The emotional toll of double shifts at work and at home makes women the most anxious patients. According to the document Positioning on Women’s Cardiovascular Health, by the SBC, they are more likely to have anxiety and depression disorders, which increase the risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD).

The symptoms of an anxiety attack are similar to those of a heart attack: rapid heartbeat, sweating, tremors, shortness of breath, feeling faint, nausea and tingling. However, unlike a heart problem, an anxiety attack tends to improve over time, as the patient calms down and regains emotional control. In a heart problem, the picture gets worse.

The most common symptom of a heart attack in women

A heart attack doesn’t follow the rules and each patient may experience different symptoms, but in general, the signs of a heart attack are different for men and women. Although chest pain radiating to the left arm is common among them, it is not the main symptom for them, for example.

Some of the main symptoms among women are pain in the left side of the chest, pain in the stomach area, nausea, fatigue, weakness, indigestion and feeling very unwell. After menopause, the risk of a heart attack increases by 30% due to the decrease in the production of estrogen, a hormone that stimulates the dilation of blood vessels and acts as a protector of the heart.

The main way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is to lead a healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise and a balanced diet, avoiding smoking and controlling blood pressure. They should also have regular check-ups to detect potential problems.

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