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Reducing Your Risk: Women’s Heart Health

February 13, 2017 1:00 PM with Dr. Philip Krause

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It’s become a well-known fact that heart disease remains the number one killer in women. What many don’t know is how different symptoms can be from woman-to-woman, and that the warning signs aren’t the same as they are for men. It’s time to get informed; Join Dr. Philip Krause, Interventional Cardiologist within the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, for an online chat in which he will take questions on women’s heart health. This includes diagnosis, treatment and everyday tips for women to improve the health of their hearts.

Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:00 PM:
Our women's heart health chat is now open. You can submit questions at any time during our chat.

Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore) - 1:01 PM:
Welcome to the cardiology online chat to review issues with women and heart disease. We can discuss diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Also I will be happy to address other specific questions that you may have.

Philip B. Krause, MD, FACC Director, Section of Cardiology Vice Chairman, Dept of Medicine Skokie Hospital NorthShore University HealthSystem

  Joanne - 1:01 PM:
What are the differences in symptoms between men and women experiencing a heart attack?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Great Question, Joanne.

Heart disease was previously thought of as a "man's" disease, but it remains the #1 cause of death for both men AND women. While men may present with typical symptoms of chest pressure or tightness, which may radiate to the arm or back, women may have less obvious symptoms.

These may include shortness of breath, nausea, back pain, neck pain or heartburn. Also, women may notice a change in exercise tolerance.

Don't ignore a change in how you feel!

  Cathy (WI) - 1:05 PM:
My father had a heart attack and had surgery for 3 blockages. Does that automatically make me more susceptible to blockages/heart attacks?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Cathy, thanks for submitting a very pertinent question.

The fact that your father has heart disease puts you at risk for "family history" as one of the most important risk factors.

The younger he is at onset makes it a more significant risk factor, especially prior to age 50.

Women are "protected " prior to menopause, but risk increases for women after age 55.

However; we have seen heart disease in younger patients with other risk factors including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Take care of your risk factors and have a full risk factor evaluation by your physician.

You may benefit from a stress test.

  Naomi (Highland Park, IL) - 1:10 PM:
I am 70 years old. Generally healthy, but taking statins to control high cholesterol. I have never had a stress test (my cardiologist never recommended it). Should I have one done?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)

Stress tests are indicated for patients at risk for heart disease or those who have symptoms such as intermittent chest discomfort or change in exercise tolerance, or heartburn that resolves quickly.

If there are other risk factors, you may be a candidate for a stress test to assess your overall risk.

It would be a good question to ask your cardiologist, as well as the possible benefit of daily aspirin.

  Maria (Mundelein, IL) - 1:15 PM:
Mostly at nights when I lay down, I can feel a jump or faster movement of the heart followed by a cough that is getting more frequent lately. Is that normal? Could this be related to a heart problem?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)

A "skipped " heartbeat can be common, and cause the very symptoms that you describe.

You should notify your family physician/internist and ask if a cardiac monitor would be indicated to look for any rhythm change.

These symptoms can also arise from reflux or heartburn, especially while lying flat after meals.

  Karen (Glenview, IL) - 1:17 PM:
As far as the effect stress has on the heart, how much more severe is it in women since we tend to get worried about almost everything?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)

Stress has an effect on the entire body with increase in catecholamines, or stress hormones that can raise heart rate and blood pressure. This may lead to symptoms in people with underlying heart disease.

It can also happen in men with a TYPE A personality.

The goal is to find out what stressors cause the worry in the first place, and to try to deal with those issues, potentially with the help of a professional.

If symptoms that were previously described occur, they should be addressed with a medical professional.

  Jennifer (Chicago, IL) - 1:21 PM:
I recently had a sharp pain on the left side of my chest. It comes and goes, but it gets more intense as I take a deep breath in when I do feel the pain. Could this be a heart problem?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)

Depending on your age, this could be heart-related, but could also be related to an acute lung infection or irritation of the lining of the heart or lung with a viral syndrome.

It may also be caused by an injury to the bones or muscles of the chest after lifting or other injury.

A wide variety of caused may be responsible so it would be prudent to get it checked by your medical professional.

  Carrie (Evanston, IL) - 1:25 PM:
I've read that "calcium scoring" is the best predictor of a future heart attack. It said to get it if you're 50 or older with risk factors. Do you recommend this test?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Calcium scoring is used best to assess for abnormal calcium buildup in the arteries of the heart.

If we see a significant increase in calcium scoring, we may have a lower threshold to start cholesterol lowering medicine.

A more sensitive and accurate test would be a stress test which combines information on the EKG response to exercise and test for exercise capacity while monitoring for EKG changes and or symptoms. The stress test is a much better predictor for coronary heart disease.

Therefore I do not recommended calcium scoring for my patients.

  Shirley (Princeton, WI) - 1:29 PM:
I have found that since on eliquis, I get terrible back cramping when I walk short distance. Is this normal for heart medication? What can I do next?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Shirley, Any new symptoms with starting a new medicine shoiuld be reported to the doctor who prescribed the medicine. Back pain is not normal and may or may not be related to the Eliquis. You should notify the physician who prescribed the medicine of the issues you are having. Do not adjust the medicine until speaking with the Physician.

  Mary (Chicago, IL) - 1:32 PM:
Hi Dr. Krause What are the most common symptoms a woman can have when they are having a heart attack?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Mary, Women are more likely to have upper back, arm , neck, or jaw discomfort. They may also report unusual fatigue, shortness of breath , indigestion, nausea, vomiting, palpitations or weakness as a sign of heart attack or even angina prior to a heart attack. The older the patient, the fewer the symptoms.

  Cathy (WI) - 1:35 PM:
Are heart problems common among women with rheumatoid arthritis or is it just another contributing factor?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
CAthy, Rheumatoid arthritis is not a classic risk factor for heart disease but is a syndrome associated with inflammation. Overall, women have more associated illnesses with heart attack compared with men.

  Alma (Evanston, IL) - 1:37 PM:
How much exercise is recommended for the average woman on a daily basis to keep the heart healthy?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Alma, This questions applies to both men and women. The average american should perform 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This can included 30 minutes per day of brisk walking, swimming or stair climbing 5 days per week. You don't need to run a race or join a health club to obtain benefit. The ideas is to set aside time for exercise and make it a regular habit.

  Susan (Moderator) - 1:42 PM:
Are there certain foods that are really bad for a women's heart/should be avoided?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Susan, Thanks for submitting your pertinent question. Fodds to avoid are those high in fat and cholesterol such as coconut or palm oil, fried foods, fatty meats like bacon and game meats, fatty beef, and duck. You should avoid high amount of egg yolk as well and try to stay with egg whites most of the week. The best foods to choose are high fiber foods, bran, oatmeal, lean poultry, fish, and all vegetables and fruit. Almonds and walnuts may help add antioxidants to your diet as well. A Meditteranean diet should suffice in meeting all these recommendations.

  Elisa (Glenview, IL) - 1:47 PM:
What age should women be at when they start paying more attention to their heart health?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Elisa Great question! Women at more at risk for heart disease after menopause but the time to reduce risk is in the 20-30 year range. Staying on a heart healthy diet and keeping up with exercise can mitigate the possible deleterious effects of the risk factors previously mentioned later in life. This will also help to prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Starting prevention early by maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle will serve you well and set an example for others.

  Lisa (Evanston, IL) - 1:51 PM:
Are there genetic tests for heart problems? Does NorthShore offer any?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Lisa, Yes, there are gentic tests available and NorthShore is a Premier center to study Genomics and Personalized Medicine. I would direct you to the website to navigate to the personized medicine site and contact our specialists. We can even check to see how patients respond to certain medications and "tailor" your therapy appropriately.

  Lucy (IL) - 1:55 PM:
Is it true that you can take an aspirin when you're having chest pains? Is there anything else you should do when you think you're having a heart attack?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
Very important to ask, Lucy. Yes, most people benefit from a full aspirin or even better to chew 4 baby aspirin if symptoms of a heart attack appear. It is IMPERATIVE to immediately call 911 and DO NOT transport yourself to the ER in the event of a heart attack. The paramedics have medicines and technology to help you during a heart attack which could save your life. Early recognition and treatment is the best way to avoid complications or death.

Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore) - 1:59 PM:
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions. If other issues or questions arise, please feel free to contact us at the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute or make an appointment via "Find a Doctor" page. Dr. Krause

  Patricia (Chicago, IL) - 2:00 PM:
What seems to be the most common heart problem for women these days?
Dr. Philip Krause (NorthShore)
The most common heart problem for women is High blood presssure. Other issues include high cholesterol and rhythm abnormalities including atrial fibrillation Coronary artery is also common and increases with age. Thanks for asking your question.

Kathryn (Moderator) - 2:02 PM:
This will be the end of our chat. Thank you for your questions! For more information on women's heart health, or to contact a specialist like Dr. Krause, you can contact the Cardiovascular Institute.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.