Dr. Maddalena Lettino, Head of the Heart Failure Unit of Cardiology at Humanitas discussed women’s heart health live on Radio 24.

“More and more young women suffer from heart attacks and die from heart failure. Older women on the other hand suffer from stroke more often than older men of the same age”.

Cardiovascular diseases are still the leading cause of death in women and men, not only in Italy but also in the rest of the Western world. Prevention in this case is the most effective measure, the first step is getting the right information.

“This information helps put in place preventive measures and to recognize the pathologies when they appear because diagnosis is not always straightforward and in time. A timely diagnosis allows one to take action and then possibly change the course of the disease”, explains Dr. Lettino.

The difficulty in recognizing the symptoms

In recognition of the symptoms, women are at a slight disadvantage. “In young women, the symptoms do not always have the so-called typical characteristics. The classic pain behind the breastbone is less frequent and the symptoms can be very subtle, with a prevalence of discomfort and maybe a localized pain in the arms or in another locations. These events may remain undetected for long time, making sure that the stroke progresses and has more damaging outcomes. These symptoms are sometimes hardly even recognized by health professionals, resulting in loss of valuable time”.

What symptoms should we be looking for?

“We must not underestimate the presence of an inner visceral malaise which affects the chest, causing a transient shortness of breath, with cold sweats. Furthermore, the presence of pain that doesnt necessarily relate to the sternum, but radiates behind it may be a cause of worry. This pain may exist only in the posterior part of the chest, just the arms or the base of the neck and coming up to the jaw. These are signs that often suddenly, maybe after a strong emotion or that are so intense as to bring the patient to the doctor. The advice is to not underestimate them, but to do some in-depth examination to rule out the presence of a heart problem”.

Risks during menopause

“In women (50-60 years) the number of heart attacks is progressively increasing and is often more fatal than in men and thus female mortality in this age group is higher.

Throughout the fertile period, the hormonal protection ensures that women have fewer cardiovascular events than men. In menopause, when this protection is lost, cardiovascular risk factors increase. Additionally, the chance of becoming hypertensive, hypercholesterolemic also increases. Women exposed to the same risk factors as men develop heart attacks as frequently as men. In this stage of life women must therefore pay more attention to risk factors and implement cardiovascular prevention strategies”, advises Dr. Lettino.