Doctor Maddalena Lettino, head of the Operative Unit of Cardiology I in Humanitas, was interviewed during the broadcast of Heart and Money on Radio 24 to talk about women’s hearts and how to take care of them.

There is an increase in infarction, heart attack, in young women, making it is easier to die of heart events. On the other hand, in older women compared to men of the same age, stroke is much more frequent compared to heart attacks”.

Cardiocirculatory 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 works and the first step is correct information.

Information helps to implement preventive measures and to recognize diseases when they occur, because making the correct diagnosis at the right time does not always occur. The timelier the diagnosis, the more likely it is to have treatment actions available and thus the possibility to change the course of the disease,” explains Dr. Lettino.


The difficulty in recognizing symptoms

In terms of recognizing the symptoms, women are a little more disadvantaged than men: “In young women, the symptoms do not always have the so-called typical characteristics. Classical pain behind the sternum is less common and symptoms can be very devious, with a prevalence of malaise and perhaps a localization of pain in the arms or in another part of the body. These manifestations may be misinterpreted or remain unrecognized for a sufficiently long time to allow the condition to progress to a heart attack and have its worst effect. These symptoms are sometimes difficult to recognize even by healthcare professionals, resulting in the loss of valuable time.


What symptoms should you pay attention to?

We must not underestimate the presence of a visceral type of internal malaise, which concerns the chest, perhaps accompanied by a transitory lack of breathing, cold and inexplicable sweating; the presence of pain that does not necessarily concern only the region of the sternum, but that radiates to the shoulders or that may be present only in the posterior thoracic part or only in the arms or pain that goes to the base of the neck and that reaches the jaw. These are signs that often appear in an unusual, sudden way, perhaps after a strong emotion or that are so intense that they force the patient to visit the doctor; the advice is not to underestimate them, but to do some in-depth examination to exclude the presence of a cardiac problem “.


Greater risks in menopause

In women in early menopause (50-60 years old) the number of heart attacks is gradually increasing and it can more easily be fatal in women than in men. Therefore, female mortality in this age group is higher.

Throughout the fertile period, hormone protection means that women have fewer cardiovascular events than men. In menopause, when this protection decreases or stops, the significance of all other cardiovascular risk factors takes over: it increases the probability of being hypertensive, developing hypercholesterolemia, and developing diabetes. Moreover, it equalizes the risk for heart attacks between women and men at the same age. In this phase of life it is therefore necessary to pay more attention to risk factors and implement cardiovascular prevention strategies,” concludes Dr. Lettino.