heart disease

Steph Whiteside/Side Effects Public Media

Most people think of heart disease as something that only happens in old age. That’s not always the case. But younger people may not recognize symptoms of a cardiac emergency because they don’t think it could happen to them.

Hidden Heart Disease Is The Top Health Threat For U.S. Women

May 31, 2016

Tracy Solomon Clark is outgoing and energetic — a former fundraiser for big companies and big causes. As she charged through her 40s she had "no clue," she says, that there might be a problem with her heart.

It was about six years ago — when she was 44 — that she first suffered severe shortness of breath, along with dizziness. She figured she was overweight and overworked, but never considered heart disease.

"That was the furthest thing from my mind," Solomon Clark says. "I was young!"

Ryan Melaugh/Flickr

Last week , the American Heart Association released a statement calling on doctors to consider mood disorders when assessing teens for cardiovascular risk.  The authors reviewed recent research showing a link between mood disorders and cardiovascular disease. They concluded when screening for cardiovascular disease in teens, doctors should look beyond traditional risk factors like weight, cholesterol and tobacco use and take depression and bipolar disorder into account, too. 

Last year my cholesterol shot up despite living nowhere near a decent barbeque joint. I was totally stressed. I wasn't overweight. But I was pretty sedentary. My doctor prescribed a high dose of Lipitor, a powerful statin.

For women of a certain age, statins are supposedly the best thing since Lycra for keeping wayward bodies in check. Statins interfere with the synthesis of low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol. LDL is a prime suspect in heart disease, the top killer of women.

The statin cut my cholesterol like buttah.

Each year more than 15,000 women under the age of 55 die of heart disease in the United States. And younger women are twice as likely to die after being hospitalized for a heart attack as men in the same age group.

It doesn't help that women tend to delay seeking emergency care for symptoms of a heart attack such as pain and dizziness, says Judith Lichtman, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. "We've known that for a while," she says.

Though heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women in the U.S., women are often not aware of their risk. One reason for this may be that heart disease presents different symptoms in women, symptoms less widely recognized by women and their doctors, says Dr. Kevin Campbell, a cardiologist based in Raleigh, North Carolina, author of Women and Cardiovascular Disease: Addressing Disparities in Care.

Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading killers around the globe. In 2012, two-thirds of all deaths worldwide were the result of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory infections. The mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was even higher in low- and middle-income countries.

What is it that's most likely to kill you? The World Health Organization says that in the 21st century, it's your lifestyle.

And it's not just a Western problem.

Study: Obesity Fuels Silent Heart Damage

Nov 21, 2014

Using an ultrasensitive blood test to detect the presence of a protein that heralds heart muscle injury, researchers from Johns Hopkins and elsewhere have found that obese people without overt heart disease experience silent cardiac damage that fuels their risk for heart failure down the road.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Statins have long been the drug of of choice to lower cholesterol to reduce the rise of heart attacks and strokes.

But a new study — funded by Merck — finds that the drug Vytorin, which combines the statin Zocor with the drug Zetia, is more effective than statins alone at lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients who have had a heart attack or severe chest pain.

Cardiovascular risk calculators usually expect you to know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. I have enough trouble remembering my email password.

So this new calculator from the Harvard School of Public Health may be a boon for people like me. It's designed to more accurately gauge risk for people who are in their 40s and 50s, especially women. And it does that by focusing on how lifestyle factors like diet and exercise affect heart disease risk, rather than numbers.

It may be the first data-driven risk predictor based on healthful lifestyle factors.

Pages