Getting to the heart of the matter
The old saw about Venus versus Mars applies not just to the obvious differences between men and women, but also to their health. A group of about 150 women heard all about women and heart disease at a luncheon sponsored by Valley View Hospital Thursday.Also hosting the luncheon at the Hotel Colorado was the Valley View Hospital Foundation, which is raising $2 million toward a cardiac catheritization laboratory “so we can do invasive and intervention programs,” said foundation president Mary Steinbrecher. Such a center would save a 90-minute trip to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction where invasive heart treatment is offered.”Statistics show that if there is intervention in the first 90 minutes after a heart attack” there is a much greater chance of survival, Steinbrecher said.Heart disease is the number one cause of death among both men and women. But heart attack can look very different in women than it does in men, said Kimberly Kramer, a cardiac nurse and director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Valley View.Rather than “the elephant on my chest” that men usually feel when they’re having a heart attack, women’s symptoms can be much subtler – fatigue rather than gripping pain.Women also have a much higher rate of death after a first heart attack, Kramer said.
In all, 25 percent of men die within the first year of their first heart attack. Among women, that rate is 38 percent. And while 18 percent of men have a second heart attack within six years after an initial attack, the number climbs to 35 percent for women.Women are also twice as likely to die from bypass surgery as men, Kramer said.What is even more disturbing is the differential in treatment between men and women with heart disease. Women are less likely than men to be treated with aspirin and other medicines and to receive such invasive treatment as angioplasty and stents – procedures used to remove blockage of blood vessels.”As a woman, you have to advocate for yourself,” Kramer said. “You have to educate yourself and know your risk factors.”The single greatest risk to men and women for heart disease is smoking. Smokers have six times the probability of having a heart attack than non-smokers.”Smoking can be more damaging to women than men because it decreases estrogen and HDL (good) cholesterol,” she said.The real cost of smoking is not the cigarettes themselves but medical treatment. Bypass surgery and a one week stay in the hospital starts at $150,000, said Dr. Carlos Albrecht, invasive cardiologist at Valley View Hospital.
“It’s important to tell your kids not to start,” he said.Diabetes is a highway to heart disease. About 85 percent of people with diabetes die of heart attack, Albrecht said. So watching blood sugar is vital. Blood sugar levels around 180 indicate a pre-diabetic condition, he said.Women should also watch their cholesterol. All levels together, including so-called good and bad cholesterol, should be under 200, Albrecht said. HDL, good cholesterol, should be around 50, and LDL, or bad cholesterol, should be between 160 and 190 for healthy people in their 30s, he said.Equally important is knowing your family history.”You need to know what happened to your parents and your siblings not aunts, uncles and cousins,” Albrecht said. If a close relative died of a heart attack in their 40s or 50s, that’s of vital importance, rather than someone who died in their 60s or 70s, a result of natural aging.Women who are overweight are also at much greater risk for heart problems. About 60 percent of the women in this country are obese.
Besides a diet low in saturated fat, exercise is equally important.”Walking the dog is not exercise. You have to sweat for 30 minutes a day,” Albrecht said. “It’s no longer three times a week.”Once a heart is damaged it cannot reconstitute itself. “Remember these simple things. I don’t wish any of you to be my patients,” Albrecht said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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