It's the No. 1 killer in both men and women.
But heart disease isn't always getting the right diagnosis.
While heart disease is an equal opportunity killer, we've mentioned before that women often receive the wrong diagnosis for heart attacks because their symptoms may be atypical or dismissed as anxiety instead.
Women don't always experience the same heart attack symptoms as men, like pressure on the chest or pain radiating down the left arm. The most common symptoms – fatigue, lightheadedness, sweating, anxiety, feelings of impending doom, sensation of an abnormal heartbeat, and nausea – also fit the flu or stress or indigestion. Or a doctor will assume it's anxiety. And because women often have higher rates of anxiety, they may receive the wrong diagnosis.
But now, women aren't the only ones at risk of having their heart attacks dismissed...
A new category of heart attack leaves doctors confused. A study earlier this year out of the University of Alberta found that more folks than previously thought suffered from something called "MINOCA." That stands for myocardial infarction with non-obstructive coronary arteries. That's a heart attack without blockages in an artery. And they account for up to 20% of all heart attacks. We don't know why these heart attacks occur, but some doctors believe inflammation of the heart or small tears in the artery are to blame.
The problem is, patients who show signs of MINOCA often don't receive any lifestyle advice or treatments. That's dangerous because more than 5% of those patients will have a second heart attack or die from a heart attack within a year. That's compared with 9% of folks with a blockage-type of heart attack.
That might seem small, but about 187,000 people experience MINOCA each year. And although more women than men experience MINOCA, it can happen to anyone. MINOCA feels like a traditional heart attack. So if you experience any symptoms of a heart attack, seek help immediately.
If your ER doctor says you don't have a blockage, run – don't walk – to another doctor. Also follow up with a cardiologist who will investigate the root cause. And immediately begin making serious lifestyle changes, like getting plenty of exercise and cutting out processed foods.
Heart disease kills 610,000 people in the U.S. every year. That's why it's so important to take care of your heart health today. Prevention is always the best option for this killer.
Stop a Heart Attack Before It Hits
Prevention is crucial for your heart's health regardless of your gender. Here are some of my top recommendations to start protecting your heart today:
1. Eat plenty of berries and olive oil. As I've written before, olive oil and berries are both great sources of antioxidants. These molecules fight oxidation damage in our cells, keeping inflammation in check. Since inflammation is a contributor to heart disease, eating plenty of antioxidants will help keep your heart healthy.
2. Exercise. Taking a few walks during the day is a great way to help protect your heart. According to a Korean study, taking a brisk 40-minute walk every day was enough to lower the top number of blood pressure by five points and the lower number by two points (130/80 to 125/78).
I take daily walks outside when the weather is warm. If I don't want to walk outside, I'll hop on the treadmill with a few magazines to read.
3. Floss. Bacteria buildup in your mouth leads to inflammation in your gums. If left unchecked, that bacteria and inflammation can spread to your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. Flossing helps break down the sticky buildup where your toothbrush can't reach.
4. Manage stress. Stress takes a heavy toll on your heart, as well as your psychiatric well-being. Meditation, yoga, and plenty of good-quality sleep are all necessary to help rid your body of stress.
Take steps today to manage heart disease. And if you're a woman who experiences any symptoms of a heart attack, don't wait to get them checked. Early treatment for a heart attack could be the difference between life and death.
What We're Reading...
- A report on female ER doctors saving women.
- Understanding more about non-obstructive coronary artery disease.
- Something different: Is that you, Dr. Banner?
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 9, 2018