Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for about 655,000 American deaths each year and racks up about $219 million in medical expenses.
While both men and women are likely to be affected by heart disease, it may differ in the symptoms that occur between genders. The risk factors that come into play and the diagnostic care that is used will also vary according to sex.
This article will look at the common types of heart disease in men and women and the issues that affect them both.
What are the Most Common Types of Heart Disease?
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. It affects the arteries to the heart. About 18.2 million adults in the United states suffer with CAD. It accounts for about 2 out of 10 deaths in adults over 65.
Other common types of heart disease include:
- Valvular heart disease that affects the valve’s functions in regulating blood flow in and out of the heart.
- Cardiomyopathy which affects how the heart muscle squeezes.
- Arrhythmias are heart rhythm disturbances that affect electrical conduction within the heart.
- Heart infections due to structural problems that develop before birth.
The Gender Difference
Men and women have anatomical and physiological differences that affect every part of their body. When it comes to the heart, women have smaller hearts and narrower blood vessels. This means heart disease progresses differently in men and women and may require different treatments.
Here are some differences to consider:
Cholesterol Buildup: When cholesterol builds up in artery walls it causes damage in major blood vessels resulting in a heart attack. Plaque buildup in men occurs in the largest arteries that supply blood to the heart. In women, plaque buildup occurs in the heart’s smallest blood vessels.
Inflammation also plays a role in heart attacks and may contribute to the difference in how heart disease plays out in men and women.
Different Symptoms: Men typically cite chest pain as their main heart attack symptom. While women complain of chest pain, they are just as likely to report symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating and pain in the abdomen, back, jaw, throat and neck.
Risk Factors: While men and women have common heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, smoking and diet, a woman’s reproductive history may add to her risk of developing a heart related condition.
For instance, a woman who developed preeclampsia or gestational diabetes during pregnancy will be more likely to have heart disease. Women who develop endometriosis under the age of 40 are three times more likely to require treatment for a heart condition at some point in their lives.
Care Options: For years, women have been given the same heart disease diagnostic care and treatment as men. Now that scientists are learning more about the differences in the genders, they are taking steps to provide each gender with the specialized care they need.
Sex specific thresholds for certain diagnostic tests are becoming more common. These will make it easy to detect heart problems in women that may be having a heart attack but are falling below the level of detection.
Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic treatment that only looks at the heart’s larger arteries and may, therefore, overlook problems occurring in a woman’s small blood vessels. When testing is not adequate to detect heart conditions in women, a cardiac MRI may be necessary.
When it comes to treatments, medical providers have been using methods to treat plaque buildup in the large blood vessels of the heart. Today, they are working on alternate care options to treat plaque in the microvasculature to come up with care that is more suitable for women.
Men and women are both prone to heart disease, but the differences in the anatomical structure of the sexes makes it necessary to take different treatment approaches. This article provides information on the steps that are being taken to make treatment more effective across the board. It is hopeful that this helps the medical industry make strides in increasing the survival rate of those dealing with heart disease in America and around the world.