Heart Disease: Women vs. Men

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:10 PM comments (0)

man vs woman heart healthHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Each year, approximately 600,000 people will die of heart disease, nearly half of them women. And yet many still believe that heart disease is a man’s disease. It’s not.

There are some possible differences, however, between men and women when it comes to heart disease. Brian Shortal, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses these differences and the heart disease risk factors that are the same for everyone:

Age. Men are considered at cardiovascular risk starting at 40. Women, on the other hand, are considered at cardiac risk starting at 50. That does not mean that women under the age of 50 have no risk for heart disease, so any symptoms should not be disregarded.  The incidence of heart disease between men and women equalizes around 65, and studies then show that women actually begin to surpass heart disease events in comparison to men. 

Symptoms. Typically, men exhibit more classic cardiac symptoms, including pain across the chest that radiates down the arms, back and jaw, and shortness of breath. Women might display more atypical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, dizziness and syncope (fainting/temporary loss of consciousness). In fact, the most common symptom in women over 80 is not chest pain but shortness of breath. 

Risk Factors. The risk factors are the same for both men and women. The major risk factors for coronary artery disease are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. If you think you might be at risk, see your physician for more information. 

Do you know your risk for heart disease?

Men's Health: High Blood Pressure? Lifestyle Changes to Lower the Rise

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 3:26 PM comments (0)

mensbloodpressureFact: Most women will live longer than their male counterparts. Why? There are several reasons but one of the biggest is the way many men approach their own healthcare. Men are less likely to maintain a regular schedule of health checks and more likely to wait before seeking medical attention when symptoms arise. 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects one in every three people in the United States; it causes or worsens severe health concerns like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes; and it’s nearly symptomless until the damage to arteries and the body is done. That’s a big problem for everyone, but especially for men who aren’t proactive about their own healthcare.  

What’s normal? What’s high? And what do the numbers mean? Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80, with 120 representing the systolic pressure, or the pressure of your blood against the walls of your arteries when your heart beats, and 80 representing diastolic pressure, or pressure between heart beats. Anything over 120/80 is considered prehypertensive and hypertension begins at 140/90. Medications are prescribed and recommended for blood pressures starting at 139/89.

If you’ve heard the words “high blood pressure” in your doctor’s office, the time to make important lifestyle changes has come. If you’re prehypertensive, these lifestyle changes can help reverse the rise. Philip Krause, MD, Cardiologist and Director of the Section of Cardiology at NorthShore’s Skokie Hospital, shares his recommendations for simple changes to make now:

  • Drop a few. If you have high blood pressure already, losing weight can lower it. Maintaining a healthy weight—a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9—can significantly reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure altogether. Keep an eye on your waistline particularly. Carrying the majority of your extra pounds around your waist puts you at an increased risk for hypertension. 
  • Put down the salt shaker. Reducing your sodium intake even a little can make a big difference. On average, most people eat far more than recommended. Daily intake of sodium should not exceed 2,300 milligrams per day or 1,500 milligrams if you are 50 or older. Start reading food labels closely as there’s often sodium hiding where you’d least expect it.
  • Get moving. Regular exercise—from 30 to 60 minutes five days a week—will help lower blood pressure levels. It doesn’t take long for exercise to take effect either. If you haven’t been active for  a while, increasing your physical activity level can begin to lower your blood pressure after only a couple of weeks. If exercise is new to you, talk to your physician before starting and he or she will help you get back into the game safely. 
  • Calm down. We’ve all been stressed out by work or life on occasion but if stress is a regular thing, it could start to impact your blood pressure levels. Think about what might be adding stress to your life and see what you can do to eliminate those stressors. If eliminating them completely isn’t an option, find ways to cope, like meditation, massage or talking to a counselor or therapist.  Also consider spending more time enjoying your hobbies; it can be stress relieving as well.
  • Change your diet. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to diminish overall cardiac risk and improve cholesterol profiles. The diet consists of nutritional foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and legumes. A diet rich in poultry, fish and lean meats and low in carbohydrates can aid weight loss as well. This weight loss can help lower blood pressure, too.  

Do you worry about your blood pressure levels? How do you keep it in check? 

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