Risks, Symptoms, Tests & Therapies:
How Women Differ From Men
by Laura Power, MS, PhD, LDN
© March, 2009
A heart attack or Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) is the leading cause of death in
both women and men! 652,091 people died of heart disease in 2005. Half were women.
47% died before they could reach a hospital. And the risks escalate with age. Prevention is
essential! We can prevent heart attacks with the following strategies: identify the 12 risk
factors, learn about symptoms (men's Vs women's), learn how to survive a heart attack, take 10
special laboratory tests to assess and confirm risks, and finally employ nutritional therapies and
lifestyle changes to compensate. Nutritional therapies will not only decrease heart attack risk,
but improve health, energy and appearance. Together with lifestyle changes (exercise, weight
loss, stress reduction, and others), we can all look forward to longer healthier lives.
The major terms defined:
1. Atherosclerosis - plaque in arteries.
2. Thrombosis - blood clots.
3. Arrhythmias & Atrial Fibrillation - irregular heart beat.
4. Hypertension - high blood pressure.
5. Aneurysm - weak wall & balloon in blood vessel.
12 RISK FACTORS
1. DIET: High fat diet, trans fatty acids, high sugar, junk food, food allergens.
2. LIFESTYLE: Lack of exercise, smoking, stress, obesity.
3. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: This places stress on the heart and blood vessels, eventually
causing an aneurysm or rupture, leading to heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure.
4. WEAK BLOOD VESSELS: Weak vessels occur with deficiencies of pycnogenol and other
factors, causing bruising, broken blood vessels on skin, and hidden clots, aneurysms, or
5. HIGH LIPIDS: High LDL cholesterol, Triglycerides, and Lipoprotein (a) lead to atherosclerosis
(plaque). Excessive iodine intake can raise TSH and serum cholesterol.
6. STATIN DRUGS: These Rx medications block synthesis of cholesterol -- but also CoEnzyme
Q-10 needed for energy production in mitochondria. There are 200 mitochondria in most cells,
5000 in each heart cell. Eventually statins can lead to mitochondrial and heart damage and
congestive heart failure.
7. B-VITAMIN DEFICIENCY: Deficiencies of vitamins B6, B12 or folate cause high
homocysteine. This amino acid corrodes arteries by degrading the collagen, elastin and
proteoglycans in blood vessels, causing blood clots.
8. INFLAMMATION: C-Reactive Protein is an inflammatory response to infections and allergies.
It causes atherosclerotic lesions in blood vessels, irregular heart beat, and depletes nitric oxide
needed to build new blood vessels in damaged hearts.
9. AIR TRAVEL: Sitting in a cramped position on an airplane for many hours can cause blood
clots in leg veins, which can reach the lungs and heart.
10. HORMONES: Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy increase blood clot risk.
Women with other risk factors should not use estrogen pills or creams. But bio-identical
progesterone is protective, especially after menopause. Synthetic "progestins" are not
11. GENETICS: Review your family history. (1) An MTHFR gene defect can block metabolism of
folic acid, increasing blood clots. (2) The beta-fibrinogen gene polymorphism causes high
fibrinogen, fibers that clot blood.
12. BLOOD TYPE: In "Blood Groups & Diseases" Mourant reports that blood type A's tend to
blood clots, while type O's tend to be bleeders. [Oxford Univ Press]
Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that most women have different
symptoms than men prior to and during a heart attack. Of the 515 women studied, 95%
identified new or different symptoms a month before the heart attack. Fewer than 30%
reported chest pain or discomfort prior, and 43% reported no chest pain during any phase of the
attack. Unfortunately women's symptoms are not as predictable as men's, resulting in less
prevention and poorer care.
Women's symptoms prior to heart attack:
Unusual fatigue - 70%
Sleep disturbance - 48%
Shortness of breath - 42%
Indigestion (nausea, vomiting) - 39%
Anxiety - 35%
Women's symptoms during heart attack:
Shortness of breath - 58%
Severe weakness - 55%
Unusually severe fatigue - 43%
Cold sweat - 39%
Dizziness - 39%
Men can have any of these heart attack symptoms:
PAIN: Pain, pressure, tightness, discomfort, fullness, squeezing or burning in the center of the
chest. Or pain extending to shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or upper abdomen. Pain may be mild to
intense, lasting several minutes.
HEART BEAT: Increased, decreased or irregular.
BREATHING: Lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fainting.
MOOD: Anxiety, nervousness, fear of impending doom.
SKIN: Paleness, pallor, cold, sweaty.
SURVIVING A HEART ATTACK
Atherosclerosis and blood clots can block coronary blood vessels, preventing blood and oxygen
flow, causing heart muscle to die. In a mild AMI the heart weakens and is often permanently
damaged. In a severe AMI heart failure and death ensue. Symptoms of heart attack can be
confusing, especially for women. But don't "ride it out". Lie down. Take an aspirin or
nattokinase, and get to the hospital immediately.
The first 3-6 hours are critical
(1) Most lethal arrhythmias occur during the first few hours, and can be treated with immediate
medical care. (2) If the clots are dissolved and the artery opened within the first few hours,
much of the dying heart muscle can be saved, and much permanent damage avoided. But
beyond 6 hours little heart muscle can be saved.
Long term complicatons
If the heart is damaged, it goes through a period of "remodeling" for several months, in which
the heart enlarges and changes shape. This can eventually lead to a decreased pumping
efficiency and gradual heart failure months or years later. The scar tissue can also cause
electrical instability, with the risk of sudden failure and death.
10 TESTS FOR HEART DISEASE
Most important screening tests for risk factors and heart damage:
1. BLOOD PRESSURE: Measure your pulse and blood pressure. Normal pulse = 70. Normal
blood pressure = 120/80.
Tests 2-8 can be ordered by our Clinic, and are covered by insurance.
2. LIPID PANEL: Shows cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, and ratios, risk for atherosclerosis.
3. C-REACTIVE PROTEIN: Shows inflammation and potential for artery damage.
4. FIBRINOGEN: Shows potenial for blood clots.
5. HOMOCYSTEINE: Shows potential artery damage.
6. LIPOPROTEIN (a): Shows potential atherosclerosis.
7. MTHFR GENE: Detects genetic defect in folate metabolism, and potential for blood clots.
8. TROPONIN or CPK (Creatinine Phosphokinase): Both show heart muscle damage after a heart
9. Digital Pulse Wave Analyzer
An FDA approved machine that analyzes heart beat, ejection fraction time, pulse rate, pulse
height (similar to stroke volume), regularity of 2 wave forms (arterial elasticity & potential
atherosclerosis), circulation of large, small and peripheral arteries, and estimates biological age
of your heart. Non-invasive. Cost about $30. The Clinic can refer you to a trained technician.
Not covered by insurance.
10. Life Line Screening
This company travels to major cities and provides medical screening for heart disease and stroke.
Testing is provided by certified technicians, using state of the art equipment. Results are
interpreted by board certified vascular surgeons, cardiologists and radiologists. 4 tests cost only
$139, but are not covered by insurance. Call 1-800-395-1801 for info and appointment. Tests
HEART RHYTHM SCREENING: EKG to detect irregular heart beats, screen for Atrial Fibrillation
(risk of heart attack).
PERIPHERAL ARTERIAL DISEASE SCREENING: Ultrasound evaluates plaque build-up in
arteries of arms and legs (risk of heart attack).
STROKE / CAROTID ARTERY SCREENING: Doppler color flow Ultrasound test for plaque (risk
ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURISM SCREENING: Ultrasound to screen for aneurysm of
abdominal aorta and possible rupture and sudden death.
1. Improve Your Diet
Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, less dairy products. Avoid: food allergens, junk
foods, excess sugar, fat, and trans fats.
2. Improve Your Life Style
Reduce stress. Quit smoking. Strive for optimal weight. Exercise at least 3-4 times a week for
3. Take Supplements
There are many nutraceuticals that will improve your heart, arteries, blood pressure, and
mitochondrial function, plus help prevent atherosclerosis and blood clots. These include: specific
premetabolized B vitamins, Vitamins C & E, plus Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Chromium,
CoEnzyme Q-10, Carnitine, D-Ribose, Quercetin, Pycnogenol, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Nattokinase.
But which supplements do YOU need? And HOW MUCH? That depends on your risk factors and
lab tests. If you are over age 40, make an appointment to evaluate your risk factors and update
your nutrient program.