Q: Are there different types of heart disease?
There are numerous different types of heart disease. These include, but are not limited to, coronary artery disease (typically blockages in the heart arteries), heart failure, abnormalities of the heart valves, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and congenital heart disease (abnormalities of the heart structure you are born with).
Heart disease does not affect all people in the same way, and there are certainly gender differences as well. Some of these differences include the timing of presentation with heart disease. For example men are at higher risk for developing coronary heart disease earlier in life than women. However, there is a higher incidence of women developing coronary heart disease later in life. Also, symptoms of coronary artery disease may vary more in women than in men. Women are less likely to have classic symptoms of chest pain or pressure beneath the sternum radiating to the jaw or left arm.
Women may be more prone to heart failure then men, especially as it relates to coronary artery disease. Additionally, women are more prone to a few specific diagnoses such as coronary artery spasm, which can cause chest pain or even heart attack. Women are also more likely to develop an entity called “broken heart syndrome” which is acute heart failure which presents like a heart attack. This is typically triggered by a significant life stressor, such as the death of a loved one. We see this more in females than males.
Q: Is there any way to tell between bad indigestion and a heart attack?
This is not so black-and-white, unfortunately. Certainly, if symptoms are directly related to eating and easily relieved with antacids without coming back, the symptoms may be due to acid reflux. However, if patients with risk factors for heart artery disease (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, family history, and age over 45 years in males and 55 in females) are experiencing these symptoms, they should seek expert advice from their doctors.
Q: If you could give women a few words of advice on heart health, what would it be?
Take ownership of your own health. Choose a clean and healthy lifestyle to protect your heart. Our world is full of stressors. Find healthy outlets for that stress, and emphasize daily exercise in your routine. For women, prioritize your heart health. As natural caregivers, this can be easy to brush
off, making everyone else a priority. Lastly, know that there are experienced cardiologists in the local community that are happy to serve you, if you do have problems with your heart.