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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Statistics show women at greater risk for heart attacks

Statistics show women at greater risk for heart attacks

By Nicole Laca/reporter

womenheartattacksThe leading cause of death in women is heart disease, which is often harder for doctors to diagnose in women, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.

“Women are twice as likely to die within the first few weeks after suffering a heart attack,” reports the Women’s Heart Foundation. “And 38 percent of women and 25 percent of men will die within one year of a first recognized heart attack.”

Because of differences in the genetic makeup up for both genders, heart disease in women is often not diagnosed until later in life.

“I’ve complained of heart palpitations for years now,” Roberta Martinez, 50, said. “It’s only been in recent years that I’ve been informed that I’m at high risk for heart disease.”

Martinez, a high school assistant principal, now faces the possibility of heart disease. She is one of the many women who fall into the category of having a history of symptoms, but no proper diagnosis until later in life.

Traditionally, men are treated more aggressively when they complain of cardiac problems because doctors believed heart disease was more likely to occur in men.

Research has now modified this belief. The truth lies in genetic makeup, the NIH study revealed.

“Women’s hearts are wired differently from men’s,” according to

Many symptoms can indicate heart disease. A common symptom in both genders of all ages is heart palpitations.

Palpitations can be a symptom of actual heart disease as well as a result of various stimulants. Caffeine, stress and medication can trigger palpitations in women.

An electrocardiogram, used to measure electrical activity in the heart, is a common tool when stress testing is performed to begin diagnosis of heart disease.

“Actual differences in a woman’s genetic makeup can make this method of testing less reliable,” reports.

Alternative tests, such as the nuclear stress test, are also problematic in women because of breast tissue.

Often breast tissue can disrupt the image of the heart when testing is performed, so the actual testing methods can create delays in diagnosis.

“Young women who complain of symptoms are often left undiagnosed due to the fact that heart disease occurs later in life for most females,” according to a descriptive study found at

Because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of most women and it is so hard to diagnose, women should be aware of a few common symptoms and complaints of women with heart disease.

“Women experience upper back discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness and unusual fatigue,” according to Sharon Hayes in an article at

As preventative measures, most experts encourage women to change one major area in life. This change involves becoming physically fit, which entails exercise and a healthy diet.

Risk factors such as age, weight, gender and family history are some common indicators that can be helpful in determining heart disease.

Women and heart disease, the facts
Heart disease is the third leading cause of death in women.

– 8.6 million women die from heart disease every year.
– 8 million women in the U.S. are currently living with heart disease.
-435,000 American women have heart attacks annually: 83,000 are under the age of 65; 70.4 is the average age.
-42% of women who have heart attacks die within one year, compared to 24% of men.
-Under the age of 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
-267,000 women die each year from heart attacks, which kill six times as many women as breast cancer.

High Risk
-Women who smoke risk having a heart attack 19 years earlier than nonsmoking women.
-Women with diabetes have more than double the risk of heart attack than non-diabetic women.
-23% of white women, 38% of black women and 36% of Mexican-American women are obese. Obesity leads to a premature death due to cardiovascular problems like hypertension, stroke and coronary artery disease.
-71% of women experience early warning signs of heart attacks with sudden onset of extreme weakness similar to the flu.
-The age-adjusted rate of heart disease for African-American women is 72% higher than for white women. African-American women aged 55-64 are twice as likely as white women to have a heart attack.
-The prognosis of women dealing with marital stress worsens.


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