Cardiovascular disease a killer in women, too

Although cardiovascular disease is often associated with men, it is a danger for women as well.

Dr. Haley Hughston, a board-certified cardiologist in Lubbock, spoke at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health Wednesday titled “There Is So Much You May Not Know About a Woman’s Heart!”

The event was part of the Feed Your Mind luncheon series, sponsored by The Anwar Family and Midland Energy and was held at the Petroleum Club of Midland. The event drew about 200 people.

Hughston said she was trying to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease in women. It is the No. 1 killer of women, killing more than all cancers combined.

Both men and women present with chest pain, but women tend to have more symptoms than that such as palpitations, nausea, indigestion, numbness and/or tingling in the arm and hands, dry mouth or a cold sweat.

“Men tend to classically present with one symptom, whereas women tend to present with more than one symptom,” Hughston said.

She added that most physicians are aware that heart disease is prevalent in men and women, but out in the community, not everyone is.

“They think of it as just a man’s issue or something that happens to women much later in life and that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, risk factors can begin in child-bearing years. The earlier you’re aware of your risk factors — if you have high blood pressure, if you have high cholesterol — and you treat those and minimize your risk factors then it can prevent heart disease later in life,” Hughston said.

But, she added, it is a fact that women have higher mortality and worse prognosis when it comes to cardiovascular disease compared to men.

“A lot of that is due to their delay in diagnosis and treatment,” said Hughston, who is at Covenant Cardiology Associates.

Anecdotally, women tend to not pay attention to their symptoms as much or want to chalk it up to something else because “we’re busy.”

Women who are pregnant can have risk factors such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and other items.

Outside of pregnancy, there are many factors that play into heart disease risk such as polycystic ovary syndrome, autoimmune disorders (which tend to affect women more than men), depression, anxiety, PTSD, which also affect women more than men, affect women’s risk of having cardiovascular disease later in life, Hughston said.

If you are experiencing chest pressure, for example, and it’s not going away after five minutes you should go to the emergency room. But if it’s something that comes and goes, Hughston advises to go to your primary care doctor or health provider.

“A lot of times that should lead to a referral to a cardiologist, and if not, then you can always ask,” Hughston said.

Tell your doctor that the symptoms are concerning to you and ask to be referred to a cardiologist.

“In the beginning, you want to start with your primary doctor and then go from there,” she said.

Driving yourself to the ER is dependent on your symptoms.

“If you’re having severe symptoms where you’re really hurting and you can’t talk because you’re hurting so bad, or you’re having a difficult time breathing or you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded like you’re going to pass out, then absolutely not. You should have somebody else drive you, or call 911,” Hughston said.

She added that taking care of yourself begins at home.

“Each of us is responsible for our own health and that means checking with a physician once a year, but also making sure that we’re doing our part which is eating a healthy diet, exercising, moving our body at least once a day. That’s where a lot of these problems begin is with obesity and sedentary lifestyle,” Hughston said.