Honolulu (KHON2) – In our latest edition of In Sickness and In Health, Adventist Health Castle focused on heart health for women and the difference in symptoms for women.
Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Jamalah Munir talked about the most common form of heart disease, atherosclerosis or hardening/narrowing of the heart arteries which can lead to heart attacks.
It is the number one killer of Americans.
This is commonly caused by diet and lifestyle choices such as: smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Heart disease presents itself differently in women. According to Dr. Munir, “Decreased blood flow to the heart muscle can cause symptoms of shortness of breath and chest pain with physical exertion. The chest pain is often described as a dull tightness, heaviness, or squeezing sensation, referred to as “angina”. This pain can also travel to the neck, jaw, arms, and upper back. Most men and women present similarly – but some women can just have nausea, vomiting, or just extreme fatigue. If these symptoms occur at rest then that could be a sign of a heart attack.”
Occasionally women can have signs of a heart attack that is not caused by blockages in the heart arteries, but by a tear in the wall of the artery called a spontaneous coronary dissection or SCAD.
Women should do regular visits to their primary doctor, screening and treatment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are essential.
In certain populations a specialized CT scan can identify calcifications in the heart arteries and give a calcium score.
Treatment of heart disease varies by its presentation. In cases of a heart attack – time is muscle. Performing an urgent angiogram with stent placement is critical to open the artery and restore blood flow to the heart muscle. In the outpatient clinic setting, testing may be performed such as exercise treadmill, echocardiogram, or nuclear perfusion study to aid with the detection of significant heart disease. Treatment with medications to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol are key. Also, aspirin can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Sometimes nitroglycerin medication is used to open arteries temporarily for recurrent stable angina. If medications are not effective in reducing symptoms – then an angiogram, stent placement, and sometimes coronary bypass surgery is necessary.
Dr. Munir says changes to lifestyle can really help to prevent heart disease. Smoking cessation is key. Daily physical activity – walking, jogging, weights, Zumba. You don’t have to make it to the gym – just add a 10 minute walk after each meal and that is 30 minutes per day. Dietary changes – whole food (not processed) plant based foods that are high in fiber – fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, spices, nuts, seeds. Reduction in animal products including chicken, pork, beef, dairy, eggs and seafood. Stress reduction and sleeping more are integral parts of a healthy lifestyle too.
Contact your primary care doctor for initial evaluation. If necessary a referral to cardiologist for further evaluation.
Phone number: 263-5174 (office appointments)