Women and Heart Disease

Believe it or not, the number one killer of women is heart disease, formerly thought to be a “man’s disease”.

What is heart disease? 

Your heart is a muscle that gets energy from blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. Having a constant supply of blood keeps your heart working properly. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But in fact, heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes. Coronary artery disease, for example, develops when a combination of fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue (called plaque) builds up in the arteries that supply blood to your heart (coronary arteries). The plaque buildup narrows the arteries and prevents the heart from getting enough blood (Heart & Stroke Foundation).

Why does heart disease affect women?  Women are more likely than men to have coronary MVD. Many researchers think that a drop in estrogen levels during menopause combined with other heart disease risk factors causes coronary MVD.  The disease affects women differently than it does men.  This can cause many women to be misdiagnosed.  Here are the differences:

  • For women, heart disease symptoms may be subtle – but when a heart attack
    strikes, women are more likely to die than men. Women are also at twice the risk
    of death following open heart surgery, compared to men
  • Heart damage is more likely to occur in women when the small blood vessels become obstructed from plaque.
  • Women are also more likely to maintain heart function after a heart attack, unlike men whose heart muscle becomes weaker; 38 percent of women die from heart attack, making heart attack more lethal for women than men.
  • Women are also more likely to have a second heart attack within six years of their first one, unlike men.
  • Women are also less likely than men to have obstructive coronary artery disease.

Women are also more likely than men to have a condition called broken heart syndrome. In this recently recognized heart problem, extreme emotional stress can lead to severe (but often short-term) heart muscle failure.  Broken heart syndrome is also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy (KAR-de-o-mi-OP-ah-thee) or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Doctors may misdiagnose broken heart syndrome as a heart attack because it has similar symptoms and test results. However, there’s no evidence of blocked heart arteries in broken heart syndrome, and most people have a full and quick recovery.  Researchers are just starting to explore what causes this disorder and how to diagnose and treat it. Often, patients who have broken heart syndrome have previously been healthy.

Women’s College Hospital in Canada where I go offered the following differences between the sexes and the effects of heart disease:

Women Tend to Develop Heart Disease at a Later Age

Women tend to develop heart disease later in life because they are often (though not always) protected by high levels of estrogen until after menopause. Men’s risk of developing heart disease increases in their 40s. A woman’s risk of heart disease becomes similar to a man’s risk about 10 years after menopause.

Women Experience More Silent Heart Attacks

Women experience more silent heart attacks than men. That is, a woman may not know she has had a heart attack. Women are also more likely to have a single artery narrow whereas men tend to have multiple arteries narrow.

Women Are More Likely to Be Suffering from Other Health Problems

Women are more likely to be suffering from other health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, when they have heart problems.

Women Do Not Always Get the Health Care They Need

Heart disease is under-detected in women. Once women do seek treatment, doctors do not always recognize their symptoms as the symptoms of heart disease. Women are also less likely to be referred to a heart specialist, to be hospitalized, to be prescribed medication or other treatment, or to be referred for exercise testing. As a result, women do not always get the health care they need.

I find it unsettling that women are not always getting the health care they need when they seek treatment for heart disease.  They should receive the same considered as men.  They should be referred to a heart specialist or hospitalized or given whatever care they should be entitled to.  It’s time for women to stop being under served and under treated.  In the mean time, educating women about their risk of the disease and how to take control of their health so that they can reduce that risk.  Whenever I go for my annual checkup, my doctor always orders an ECG for me.  Although I just read that ECG tests are not recommended by a government backed panel.  Read article.  Heart for Life has information on screening and heart tests on their website.  Check them out here.

I read that young women can have heart disease too.  Even though heart disease among women becomes more common after menopause, it affects younger women.  Every year in the U.S., heart disease kills about 16,000 young women and accounts for 40,000 hospitalizations in young women, according to the American Heart Association.  Young women may experience symptoms of a heart attack and fail to recognize them as such for the following reasons:

  • They thought they were too young to be having a heart attack.
  • They had atypical symptoms that lasted for more than a day.
  • They chalked up their symptoms to other conditions, not to a heart attack.

African American women are more at risk for heart disease than Caucasian women. And, if an African  American woman has a heart attack, she is 69 percent more likely to die of that  heart attack than a Caucasian woman.

Don’t be discouraged.  The Heart & Stroke Foundation assures us that heart disease is preventable and manageable.  They say that our defense is controlling the risk factors that could lead to coronary artery disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and being overweight.  Here are healthy heart steps we need to follow:

  • Be smoke-free.
  • Be physically active.
  • Know and control your blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is lower in fat, especially saturated and trans fat.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage your diabetes.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Visit your doctor regularly and follow your doctor’s advice.

Let us take action today.  Let us keep our hearts healthy.

Women tend to think that breast cancer is their biggest health threat. And while it’s important, heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of women, even young women. But that message just hasn’t been fully recognized – cardiologist Nicea Goldberg, MD, director of the Women’s Heart Program at NYU Medical Center and author of the new book Complete Woman’s Guide to Women’s Health.

heartin

Sources:  http://www.womensheart.org/content/heartdisease/heart_disease_facts.asp; http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/women-and-heart-disease-key-facts-you-need-to-know; http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/heart-disease.cfm; http://www.oprah.com/health/Facts-About-Heart-Disease-for-Women; http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/30/us-ecg-heart-idUSBRE86T1EE20120730; http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hdw/; http://www.emaxhealth.com/1020/heart-disease-affects-women-differently-men; http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/health-resources/heart-health; http://www.modernmom.com/article/women-and-heart-disease-getting-the-right-health-care;  http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20080502/younger-women-miss-heart-attack-signs; http://www.heartandstroke.on.ca/site/c.pvI3IeNWJwE/b.4007287/k.4ACF/Heart_Disease__What_is_heart_disease.htm

Morocco to change Rape Law

Imagine being forced to marry the man who raped you?  This was the horrible reality 16 year Amina Filali faced.  This drove Amina to take her own life.

In a variety of cultures, marriage after the fact has been treated historically as a “resolution” to the rape of an unmarried woman. Citing Biblical injunctions (particularly Exodus 22:16–17 and Deuteronomy 22:25–29), Calvinist Geneva permitted a single woman’s father to consent to her marriage to her rapist, after which the husband would have no right to divorce; the woman had no explicitly stated separate right to refuse. Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim.

There are two accounts of rape in the Bible that I will address here.  The first was of Dinah, the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob.  The man who raped her was Shechem.  We learn what happened in Genesis 34:

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”

Shechem raped Dinah and then he wanted to marry her.  Dinah’s brothers were livid.  “The men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.”  Shechem’s father Hamor pleaded on his son’s behalf, asking Jacob to give Dinah to him as a wife.  And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves.   So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”  Surely Hamor was aware of what his son had done.  Wasn’t he disgraced by it?  Did he think that his son marrying the woman he raped would excuse what he had done?  And what about Dinah?  How would she have felt marrying the man who raped her?  Suffice to say, the marriage didn’t go through. Two of Dinah’s brothers killed Shechem, his father and all of the men in the city. We don’t hear about Dinah after this terrible chapter in her life but it is safe to say that she never got married.

Tamar was the daughter of King David.  Her half-brother Amnon lusted after her to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep.  Finally, unable to bear it any longer, he dismissed all of the servants and got Tamar to come to his room on the pretense that he was ill.  She trustingly entered his room with the cakes she had made for him.  He took hold of her and he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”

But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her (2 Samuel 13:1-14).  After he raped her, Amnon chased her away even though she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” He had the servant throw her out and bolt the door.  Tamar was a virgin.  She went away crying bitterly.  She remained at her brother Absalom’s house.  Tamar didn’t go to her father to report what had happened.  And we can see why.  We learn that although King David was angry when he heard what Amnon had done to his half-sister, he did nothing.  Amnon was not punished for his crime.  Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged his sister by murdering her rapist.

Rapists should not be allowed to marry their victims so that they could avoid jail time.  They committed a crime and should be punished according the law.  Victims should not be forced to marry the men who violated them.  What psychological damage could that do to a woman, especially a young woman like Amina?  She was forced to marry her rapist.  Such an arrangement was  unbearable for her.  After seven months of marriage, she saw no other way out except death.  Death was more preferable than staying married to Moustapha Fellak whom she accused of physical abuse.  It is a terrible shame that this young girl had to die in order for the Moroccan justice ministry to support a proposal to change the penal code.

Let us hope that other young girls will be saved from the same fate as Amina.  This is not just a women’s issue–it is human rights’ issue.  Everyone has a right to quality of life and to be protected from violent crimes.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.  Those who commit rape should be arrested, charged and sentenced.

It is sad that we live in a world where an unwed girl or woman who has lost her virginity is considered to have dishonored her family and deemed no longer suitable for marriage.  It doesn’t matter that she was raped.  Some families believe that marrying the rapist is the best alternative.  According to a BBC News, Amina’s mother told the Associated Press,  “I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.”  It’s times like these when I am thankful that I am not a part of a culture where a young girl or woman doesn’t have the right to refuse to marry the man who raped her.  Keeping the family honor in tact even if it means that the guilty party will be a part of that family is more important than their daughter’s wellbeing.

Let’s continue to hope and pray that Morocco will change the law allowing rape marriages and to curb violence against women.  It’s time to take action, Morocco and prevent more  tragedies like the suicide of Amina.  It’s time for parents to stop forcing their daughters to marry their rapists out of fear they won’t be able to find husbands if it is known they were raped.   It’s time to protect the victims and stop allowing rapists to escape prosecution.  It’s time to rewrite the entire penal code to stop violence against women.  It’s time for change.

Open quoteIn Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual.Close quote

  • FOUZIA ASSOULI,
  • president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, on the suicide of a Moroccan teenager who was reportedly forced to marry her rapist

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,2109097,00.html #ixzz2Mbyfl700

11149-Untitledcopy-1335009933-169-640x480

Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21169923; http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/02/04/after-girls-death-morocco-will-change-rape-laws/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape; http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/morocco-to-change-law-allowing-rape-marriage_824656.html; http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/News-and-Views/morocco-amina-filali-rape-survivor-commits-suicide-after-forced-marriage-rapist

%d bloggers like this: