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Jun 17, 2019

The Inequality in Treatment of Women with Heart Disease

One in four women will get heart disease in the US.  Heart disease is increasing in women ages 35 to 55 years old.  Before menopause one in seven women will have a heart attack.  After menopause one in three women will have a heart attack. Only twenty four percent of the heart disease studies are focused on women. According to prominent cardiologists Reynolds and Walsh, cardiology assessment in women shows an inequality in research, an inequality in diagnosis and an inequality in treatment.

Signs and symptoms of heart disease are very different for women.  This is why so many women get misdiagnosed when it comes to heart disease. In fact, many women do not have chest pain with a heart disease.  The most common symptoms of heart disease in women are fatigue, depression and insomnia.  These same symptoms can also be related to menopause, anemia, thyroid issues, other hormonal issues etc.  Therefore, when treating women and heart disease one should look at the broader picture.

Symptoms related to heart disease include fatigue, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, mood issues, weakness, fainting, persistent barking cough, an abrupt change in how they feel, atypical pain, discomfort, pressure, heaviness, burning, tightness, fullness in the chest, discomfort in left or right arm, upper back, shoulder, neck, throat, jaw or stomach or bluish color or numbness of the lips.  Forty percent of the women have no chest pain at all.

One month before a heart attack symptoms one can have include unusual fatigue, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, indigestion, anxiety, heart racing and arms feeling weak and heavy.  As women we need to take control of our health by not ignoring our symptoms. If your doctor states that it is all in your head, go to another doctor.  As a naturopathic doctor I look at the boarder picture related to one’s symptoms since these symptoms can be related to so many diseases.  Heart disease is preventable through diet, lifestyle changes and stress reduction.  Catching and treating your symptoms early can prevent a major heart attack.

Is cholesterol directly related to heart disease? No, according to systematic research review by Ravnskov, Diamond, and Hama, cholesterol is not directly related to heart disease.  Many people with high cholesterol have no other signs of heart disease.  Statins are commonly used to lower cholesterol.  In fact, lowering cholesterol with statins can increase a women’s risk for cancer, hormone deficiency and dementia.  The British Medical Journal stated that women taking statins for more than 10 years had a 83% increase risk of invasive ductal breast carcinoma and a 97% increase in invasive lobular breast carcinoma. Statins have also been linked to depression, muscle pain and dementia in women. We need cholesterol to make our hormones.  As cholesterol decreases our body is also unable to make hormones such as progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.  Statins also can be a reason many people are on hormone replacement because lowering cholesterol with statins depletes hormones. Statins are the number one selling drugs.  Lowering cholesterol does not reduce a women’s risk for heart disease, and for this reason statins show no benefit for women and heart disease.  If your cholesterol is high you need to go to a doctor who can assess your diet, lifestyle and stress levels.  It is about us taking responsibility for our own health.

Also, aspirin is no longer recommend as a preventive therapy to prevent heart attacks. I have not recommended aspirin for the past twenty years because of the risk of bleeding issues and tinnitus related to aspirin.  I do not recommend taking any aspirin or NSAIDS such as Aleve, Ipuphron, Tylenol.  Taking NSAIDS for two weeks can increase your risk for a stroke and a heart attack by fifty percent.  Just because a medication is over the counter does not mean that it is safe. All medications have side effects.

Bio-identical hormones do not prevent heart disease.  Heart disease rates are still increasing in women even though they are taking bio-identical hormones. Depression and fatigue are directly related to low serotonin levels which is related to heart disease in women. So do not ignore your symptoms.  If you do not feel well, you need to go to your doctor.

Again, the symptoms of heart disease in women are insomnia, fatigue and depression.  If you have any of these symptoms see a doctor for an evaluation to get to the cause of your health issue.  Lowering cholesterol increases one’s risk of breast cancer and increases one’s risk for dementia.  We need cholesterol to make our hormones.  As cholesterol decreases your body is also unable to make hormones has as estradiol, progesterone and testosterone.  Heart disease is preventable through diet, lifestyle changes and stress reduction. As women we need to take charge of our health.

Dr Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic doctor at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Pharmacy for the past twenty-two years.  She has a family practice focusing on the cause of one’s health issue rather than just treating the symptoms. For any questions or an appointment at 970-926-7606 or