Women And Heart Disease- Knowing Your Risk -

As February is observed worldwide as Heart Month, Registered Nurse Celestine King-Dorsett is drawing attention to women’s heart health in particular.

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the Bahamas as per our statistics 2015? Did you know that cardiovascular disease is by far the biggest killer in women? Did you know that young women may also develop coronary heart disease? Did you know that women usually wait a while to see if they get better before seeking medical help? Do you know your risk factors, such as family history, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, age, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle?

The scope of the problem

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. It can lead to the following conditions:

• Acute myocardial infarction: a heart attack due to ruptured cholesterol plaques or blocked vessels.

• Unstable angina: chest discomfort or pain due to decreased blood flow to the heart muscle.

• Hypertensive heart disease, occurring due to increased muscle mass and muscle size in the heart from hypertension.

• Heart failure due to a weakened heart muscle which cannot adequately pump blood around the body

• Coronary death, where one or more of the above has occurred resulting in demise.

Then there is cerebrovascular disease which includes a variety of medical conditions that affect the blood vessels of the brain and the cerebral circulation. It can cause the following:

• Cerebral vascular accidents like stroke or blocked blood vessels in the head.

• Transcient ischemic attacks: small strokes which occur and usually last for a short time and settle sometimes without any noticeable changes.

• Peripheral artery disease: claudication, pain or decreased blood flow usually in the lower limbs.

  1. Aortic disease: slow, silent hardening and narrowing of the arteries leading to decreased flow)

Signs and symptoms

Some of the common signs and symptoms of individuals with heart disease include:

• Chest pain, heaviness and or discomfort that may occur between the lower jaw and abdomen.

• Unusual or unexplained upper body discomfort or limb pain.

• Shortness of breath at rest or with least exertion.

• Breaking out in cold sweat not associated with movement or exercise.

• Light-headedness, sudden dizziness, fatigue and nausea.

Testing modalities

• Electrocardiogram (baseline tracing of the electrical system of the heart which can indicate disease and/or injury)

• Echocardiogram (ultrasound study of the heart to assess function, structure and or damage)

• Treadmill or nuclear stress test (exercise stress test to assess or rule out exercise-induced decreased blood flow to the heart, indicating disease)

• Coronary calcium score (to assess the presence or absence of calcium deposits in the coronary anatomy which can indicate disease)

• Cardiac catheterisation (a test done in the hospital on the coronary arteries to assess or correct disease or blockage)


• Seek medical attention for any of the above mentioned symptoms.

• Take your medication as advised by your doctor and do not stop unless instructed to do so.

• Follow through with recommended tests so that your assessment can be completed and acted on.

• Monitor and control blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels.

• Try eating a healthy diet which should include more fruits and vegetables and less starches.

• If you smoke, please try to stop this may require you consulting with your doctor for help.

• Implement an exercise routine and try to be regular with it, while trying to make it a family affair.

• Try to avoid alcohol and stress.

• Try to get adequate rest and look after your spiritual health

Take home points:

• Coronary heart disease is a big risk to women.

• Early prevention can reduce your risk.

• Take advantage of the screening programmes to you.

• Women can present differently from men and be assessed such.

• Women should remember to seek care as they are usually the caregivers if others and seek help for themselves as a last resort.

Attend the Bahamas Heart Centre's Health Fair today from 10am to 1pm. There will be free screenings for blood glucose and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, as well as measuring of weight and pulse rates.

• Celestine King-Dorsett is the medical manager at the Bahamas Heart Centre located in the Medical Pavilion Bahamas, Collins Avenue.


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