WASHINGTON - Heart disease can sneak up on women in ways that standard cardiac tests can miss. It’s part of a puzzling gender gap: Women tend to have different heart attack symptoms than men. They’re more likely to die in the year after a first heart attack.
Many women don’t realize that heart disease is the number one female killer. One in 30 women’s deaths in 2007 was from breast cancer, compared to about 1 in 3 from cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.
A new report concludes there has been too little progress in tackling the gender differences in heart disease. It outlines the top questions scientists must answer to find the best ways to treat women’s hearts - and protect them in the first place.
“A woman’s heart is her major health threat, and everyone who takes care of a woman has to realize that,’’ said Emory University cardiologist Dr. Nanette Wenger, who coauthored the report for the nonprofit Society for Women’s Health Research and WomenHeart.
Even if a test of major heart arteries finds no blockages, at-risk women still can have a serious problem - something called coronary microvascular disease, where blood vessels that feed the heart become damaged so that they spasm or squeeze shut, Wenger said.