What is a Heart Attack and What Does it Mean for Women?
Dictionary.com defines heart attack as “a sudden occurrence of coronary thrombosis, typically resulting in the death of part of a heart muscle and sometimes fatal.” Oddly enough the Heart Foundation of Australia explains in much simpler terms that “A heart attack happens when there is a sudden complete blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart.” This occurs when there is a build up in fatty plaque inside which ruptures and causes the artery to clot. A Heart attack, also known as Myocardial infarction (MI) is commonly believed to be an ailment of unfit middle age men with poor lifestyle choices. But modern research suggests that some of the symptoms of a different kind of heart attack are exclusive to women. According to The Guardian, women in Australia are half as likely to be adequately treated for heart attacks. After being discharged, women were twice as likely as men to suffer or die from continued heart problems. In June of this year, the American Heart Association published a study in which women between 18-25 have almost double the risk of developing what is called MINOCA or Myocardial Infarction with Non-Obstructive Coronary Arteries. This basically means heart attacks not caused by blocked arteries rather MINOCA can be triggered by a simple spasm which prevents blood flow to the heart. Though other estimates like Dr. Basmah Safdar’s put the estimate of women being at five times more likely to suffer from MINOCA… According to New York University’s Langone Health Center MINOCA affects 187,000 people in the United States annually.
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What We Overlook About the Heart
The heart, like any muscle, requires regular blood flow to operate, as circulation not only supplies cells with fresh oxygen, it also serves as a waste disposal system for all the by-products of the complex interactions which occur within the cells. Therefore the danger is two-fold, with bad circulation, the cells are, over time, starved of oxygen, and also are in danger of generating too much waste to function properly.
Imagine if all the Waste Management and Sanitation workers went on strike! Our pleasant neighborhoods would not remain very pleasant for long. The Human body is dependent on a regular circulation of blood, without which the cells will starve and die often causing permanent damage to the affected parts.
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The Danger of MINOCA is in it’s Elusivity to Modern Medicine
The study showed that the majority of those at risk of MINOCA were women, and while it differs in nature from traditional heart attacks (also known as MI or MI-CAD) the medical outcome was not much different. MINOCA is more dangerous as it doesn’t show up on an angiography meaning, it is much more difficult to identify. Furthermore, New York University’s Langone Medical Center stated “Unfortunately, physicians are still not sure how to properly treat and prevent this type of heart disease.” With little warning signs and no clear test, this sneaky killer should not be taken lightly.
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Which Symptoms to Look Out For?
We are trained to notice pressure or pain in the chest as a major sign of heart attack. Though there are more subtle indicators that women should look out for says The Clinical Director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at Ohio State University, Laxmi Mehta MD. She explains that women have a tendency to feel pain in the in the jaw, upper back and arms. In addition to heartburn and profound fatigue. This pain can indicate poor or restricted circulation. Similarly difficulty sleeping Oddly enough these symptoms do not apply to Men under similar conditions. While there is no conclusive explanation as to why these symptoms are specific to women. Other symptoms, are chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea and flu like symptoms which last more than 3 weeks.
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Don’t Wait it Out, Seek Help!
And as we mentioned, women are less likely to go for, let alone receive adequate treatment for heart conditions, one should be sure to visit a qualified medical professional as soon as possible. For when it comes to heart attacks, the longer a blockage is left unattended, the longer the heart cells go without blood, and the more the heart is damaged in the process. If left too long, the cells can even die, causing irreparable complications for the remainder of your life if treated. Otherwise “Women tend to develop cardiogenic shock,” according to Mehta, which is a condition of the utter inability of the heart to meet the body’s need for blood, resulting in death if not treated immediately. While there is no sure sign of MINOCA, your best bet is to be within arms reach of a cardiologist and testify that it is, in fact, better to be safe than sorry…
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