In November 2018, a team of researchers from a number of different institutions and based in communities across the US published a study which revealed a disturbing trend: while overall rates of heart disease are decreasing, the rate of young women experiencing heart attacks has been increasing in recent years.
Though the novel COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic eclipsed most other health concerns for young people between 2019 and 2022, during that same time many young people first became aware of the risks of heart disease among even otherwise apparently healthy individuals.
Younger women especially need to be aware of the types of cardiovascular disease to which they are most at risk, risk factors, warning signs, and especially symptoms of these diseases. This is especially true because not all heart disease presents the same way; for example, not all heart attacks feel the same to every person. We will review some of the heart disease predictors for women for two common conditions, as well as causes and symptoms so that you can be equipped to work with a medical professional to obtain a more precise diagnosis and treatment.
Note that this article is not intended to replace medical advice from a licensed physician. If you sense that something feels wrong, but the symptom is not listed in this article, we urge you to immediately consult your doctor.
Pericarditis is a common cardiovascular condition. It refers specifically to the inflammation and swelling of the pericardium, a membranous tissue surrounding and protecting the heart from both physical trauma and viral or bacterial infection.
Pericarditis’s causes can be both numerous and elusive. In many cases, it may be impossible even for seasoned professionals to pinpoint the causes of a particular instance of the disease. The causes can be broadly grouped together into the following categories:
By and large, pericarditis is a fairly mild condition which, like many cardiovascular conditions, most often presents as chest pain, which may occur as a sharp, stabbing sensation or as a dull ache behind the breastbone. Oftentimes this pain will get worse as the patient lies down or tries to breathe deeply. Additionally, people with pericarditis may develop a cough or a fever, as well as fatigue, swelling of the abdomen or legs, heart palpitations, and/or shortness of breath.
Potential Complications & Detection
Though pericarditis in women is often a very mild condition, if left unchecked it certainly has the potential to turn into something more serious, including developing into myopericarditis. In some cases, a condition called “pericardial effusion” occurs, wherein fluid builds up between the pericardium and the heart. Pericardial effusion has the potential to escalate into “cardiac tamponade,” wherein the pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from filling fully with blood. This condition can be life-threatening.
Early detection can help to prevent pericarditis from turning into a more serious diagnosis. A 12-lead ECG is one of the easiest ways for a physician to diagnose pericarditis and related conditions.
Myopericarditis is a complication of pericarditis wherein both the pericardium and myocardium (the middle layer of the heart muscle) have become inflamed.
Women who develop myopericarditis do so as a result of infection spreading from the pericardium to the rest of the heart. This infection is usually viral in nature. It may also be bacterial or, in some cases, even fungal. Many of the same risk factors for pericarditis also apply to myopericarditis, including the presence in the patient of existing autoimmune disorders that may cause inflammation. Other potential causes include physical chest trauma or a history of heart attacks.
One of the main myopericarditis signs in women is sharp pain in the chest. Because the condition is often brought on by infection, many of the initial symptoms may appear to be flu-like or even COVID-like, including coughing, fatigue, congestion, and fever, which often presents before the more classic symptoms.
Potential Complications and Detection
Myopericarditis is a complication of pericarditis. If left untreated, it can result in heart failure and death. Fortunately, this disease can be quickly detected with a 12-lead ECG before it becomes too severe.
Myocardial ischemia is a condition wherein there is not enough blood flow to the heart muscle, often due to blockage in the blood vessels. As a result, the heart does not receive enough oxygen, and is unable to operate efficiently and effectively.
The single most common cause of ischemia in women pertains to lifestyle choices. To avoid the condition, it is recommended that patients abstain from smoking, refrain from having more than one alcoholic drink a day, eliminate tobacco intake, and engage in rigorous physical activity. Additionally, those at risk are encouraged to build a healthy diet, mitigating their intake of Low-Density Lipoproteins (“bad cholesterol”) relative to their intake amount of High-Density Lipoproteins (“good cholesterol”).
Like most cardiovascular disease, the most common and recognizable symptom of ischemia is painful pressure on the right side of the chest. Many people may also experience pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, and arm, as well as fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, and sweating.
Potential Complications and Detection
Myocardial ischemia can be an extremely serious condition that, if left unchecked, may result in a severe heart attack, long-term arrhythmia, or heart failure. The most common method of diagnosing this condition is also a 12-lead ECG, which provides doctors with enough information to make an informed diagnosis.
Heart disease is unfortunately still common in the United States. Many of these conditions are very treatable if diagnosed early. Contact the SmartHeart®️ team today to learn more about how our fully remote 12-lead ECG solution can provide patients with a lifesaving diagnosis.
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