WOMEN’S HEALTH: Angina in Women Gets Less Attention

wh-20.jpgWomen are likely to receive a lower level of medical care for the common heart condition angina than men, scientists have revealed.

A UK study published in the Journal of Women’s Health revealed that women are likely to receive a lower level of medical care for the common heart condition angina than men. The research carried out by scientists at the University of Aberdeen looked at 1,162 patients, including 552 women, who were being treated for angina.

One of the reasons may be that when women have angina they are more likely than men to experience ‘atypical’ symptoms. Many women report a hot or burning sensation, or even tenderness to touch, in the back, shoulders, arms or jaw. In many cases they have no chest discomfort at all. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, show that twice as many women as men between the ages of 25 and 54 actually get angina.

Since angina may show up differently in women than in men, physicians sometimes fail to diagnose it and it can be attributed to musculoskeletal pain or gastrointestinal disturbances. Women having a heart attack can also show atypical symptoms — nausea, vomiting, indigestion, shortness of breath or extreme fatigue, but no chest pain. The UK researchers have called for a campaign highlighting the problem.

You should go to your doctor or the emergency room if you experience:

  • Episodes of pain, pressure, burning or squeezing in the chest, jaw, shoulders, back, or arms, lasting up to 5 to 10 minutes
  • Unexplained episodes of shortness of breath lasting up to 5 to 10 minutes
  • Episodes of palpitations with lightheadedness or dizziness

This squeezing or dull, pressure-like pain is a sign that your heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen to meet its needs. The pain is most likely to occur with exercise, stress or cold weather.

Call 911 if you experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Pain, pressure, burning or squeezing in the chest, jaw, shoulders, back, or arms, that lasts more than 5 to 10 minutes
  • Unexplained shortness of breath lasting more than 5 to10 minutes
  • Sudden severe nausea, vomiting, or indigestion
  • Sudden sweating for no reason
  • Sudden unexplained extreme fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • Sudden, panicky feeling of doom

Doctors advise that chewing an aspirin could help save your life.

What can you do to keep your heart healthy?

New research indicates that angina in women may be caused by a wide variety of substances that act directly on arterial walls to constrict arteries and shut down the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The best way to keep your arteries in shape is don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, take vitamin E and get some exercise every day.

A study by Harvard University researchers found that 100 international units of vitamin E daily for at least two years reduced the chances of developing heart disease by about 40%. Since angina is a symptom of heart disease, there’s good reason to believe that vitamin E can help relieve angina pain. British researchers found that people who had the lowest levels of vitamin E in their blood were 2½ times more likely to have angina than those who had the highest levels.

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