• By Dennis Douda

Women and Heart Attacks

February 17, 2014

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of all women are unaware of this fact. Founder of the Women's Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic Sharonne Hayes, M.D., says, "While there’s been a steady decline in cardiovascular deaths in the general American population over the past 30 years, that has not been the case for women under the age of 55, which has seen a slight increase."

Journalists: Sound bites are available in the downloads. This is part 1 of Dr. Hayes' insights on women's heart health. Also see "Women Urged to Take Charge for Better Heart Health" posted February 24, 2014.

Dr. Hayes says part of the problem has been an outdated belief that women had a lower risk of heart disease than men. She says it's now known that women actually have some additional risk factors that can damage their cardiovascular health.

Sound bite #1 - Women’s Risk Factors (Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Mayo Clinic Cardiovascular Expert) "Some of those are autoimmune diseases, like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, or depression and anxiety,
which are risk factors for heart disease and twice as common in women compared to men.
 They also have to go through all the vascular and physical changes of pregnancy."  TRT :17   

The CDC says nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly of a heart attack reported no previous symptoms. Dr. Hayes says women are more prone to dismiss heart attack symptoms as something else, like acid reflux. Beyond that, she says, woman's symptoms may be different than a man's.

Sound bite #2 - Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms (Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Mayo Clinic Cardiovascular Expert) "About 80 percent of men and women may have some sort of chest symptom, but that may not be pain. It may be pressure or burning or squeezing. It may radiate to the shoulders, to the neck, to the jaw, to between the shoulder blades. Sometimes it may be shortness of breath or nausea or vomiting, or a clammy feeling." TRT :19 

Dr. Hayes says public health messaging needs to emphasize that heart-healthy lifestyle choices are as important for women as they are for men. She also says all of us need to start paying attention to our heart's needs at a younger age.

Sound bite #3 - Start Young (Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Mayo Clinic Cardiovascular Expert) “American Heart Association's guidelines say every person at age 20 should have a health risk assessment, a heart health risk assessment at age 20. So, that would include an assessment of lifestyles, exercise, diet, exercise and how you move, but also checking blood pressure, cholesterol.”  TRT :20