Women’s hearts are smaller, their risk factors are different and so are their symptoms

Women’s hearts are smaller, their risk factors are different and so are their symptoms

It wasn’t that long ago, about 10 years, when researchers realized that men and women experienced different symptoms and types of heart disease. These differences can affect diagnosis and subsequently treatment. Advisor to Her Heart, Dr Noel Bairey Merz, who is also the director of the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Centre, highlights  blocked arteries in the heart are likely to be diagnosed using an angiogram. The smaller arteries in women cannot always clearly be seen during an angiogram and women may be sent home without a diagnosis.

An angiogram is an X-ray of blood vessels and can help with diagnosis of heart conditions. Angiogram is a safe diagnostic procedure with less than 1% risk for complications. The procedure uses X-ray and a special dye (called contrast) to take images of the arteries checking for blockages, narrowing or other problems.

A recent important finding from the research undertaken at the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Centre was the finding of ischemia (restricted blood supply) with no obstructive disease, or INOCA. This disease only affected women’s hearts but until 2017 had no name. Dr Bairey Merz say’s they know now how to diagnose and to treat it. INOCA is a small vessel dysfunction in the heart that affects about one-third of women with ischemic heart disease. Ischemic heart disease is also called coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. It is a common type of heart disease and is one of the world’s biggest killers. Dr Bairey Merz says, “12 times as many women die of heart disease every year as die from breast cancer. These statistics bear repeating, because despite its prevalence, many women remain in the dark about the condition.”

“Women’s hearts are smaller, their risk factors are different and so are their symptoms”, said Dr Bairey Merz. Women are urged to talk to their healthcare provider and get regular heart checks. For more information read the article from Cedars Sinai published in February 2021.