Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Women's Heart Attack Symptoms

 This is the last in my blog posts for Women's Heart Health.. I think, unless I think of something else anyway.  Today, I'm going to talk about symptoms in women.  Many women don't get the pain in left arm crushing chest can't breathe feeling.  So they brush off their symptoms, and they don't get medical help.  Another interesting fact, women are less likely to call 911 for themselves if in doubt, than for another person.  They are afraid of being embarrassed if it turns out to be a false alarm or something trivial.  I have friends that are doctors, I have friends that are EMTs.  Call them if you think you have a problem, they would rather come out on a genuine false alarm than have to transport someone to a doctor who pronounces them dead.  Women that do show up at the ER (and please don't drive yourself) often have a lot of preventable damage already done, because they waited too long.

One thing that I find very interesting, is that since women have smaller blood vessels it is often the smaller auxillary vessels that start to have symptoms first.  Either because they are being blocked and can't do their jobs or becuase the larger vessels are experiencing blockages and they start to get the additional blood flow they can't handle.  Here is a list of symptoms that many women experience up to one month before an actual heart attack:

  • 71% had unusual fatigue
  • 48% had sleep disturbances or changes
  • 42% had shortness of breath
  • 39% had indigestion
  • 36% had unexplained anxiety
  • 27% felt their heart racing
  • 25% felt their arms were weak or heavy

 During a heart attack many women do not feel the crushing chest pain or pressure.  they don't always get the sharp shooting pains in their left arm.  More common symptoms are neck, shoulder, upper back and abdominal discomfort. Here is a list of symptoms felt by women DURING a heart attack:

  • 58% had shortness of breath
  • 55% felt weakness
  • 43% felt unusual fatigue
  • 39% had a cold sweat
  • 39% felt dizziness
  • 36% felt nausea
  • 35% felt their arms were weak or heavy

 Please do not ignore these symptoms, especially if you have more than one of them!!

Here are some really helpful links with a lot more information than I was able to put in my last 3 posts.

Women's Heart Org summary sheet
Women's Health. Gov heart disease info page  
Mayo Clinic Women's Heart Disease 
American Heart Association Women's Heart Attack 
Harvard Med School's Publication

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Women's Heart Risks

  Just as an FYI - I got these facts from the Mayo Clinic and from the Harvard Medical School Health Publications.  There are a lot of other good sources out there - but please before you go trolling the internet - think of the commercial with the "french model"  not everything on the internet is accurate - please make sure you are getting information from a reliable source.  One good link that can lead you to a bunch of other trustworthy links to further explore this issue is  the page from the US Department of Health and Human Services office of Women's Health. 

Like I said yesterday, many of the risk factors for heart disease are the same for men and women.  Things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, inactivity and weight affect both men and women's heart disease risk.  But women also have extra risk factors.

  • Metabolic syndrome — a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides — has a greater impact on women than on men.
  • Mental stress and depression affect women's hearts more than men's. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment, so talk to your doctor if you're having symptoms of depression.
  • Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men. up to twice the risk factor, and due to hormonal cycles nicotine replacement patches and other smoking cessation aids are less effective in women thatn in men.
  • Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (small vessel heart disease).
  • After menopause, high triglycerides & low HDL are a higher risk factor for women than high LDL.
  • Diabetes increases heart disease risk in women more than in men
  • Women have smaller and lighter coronary arteries than men, this makes procedures like angioplasty, angiography and bypass surgery more difficult and less successful in women than in men.

There are things women can do to try and reduce their risks, and if they already had a cardio occurrence increase the likely hood of a favorable outcome.

  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week. This does not necessarily mean join a gym, or run a marathon.  And studies have shown that it does not have to be 30 minutes in a row.  So walk around the room during commercials, or go up and down the stairs an extra time when you hit the bathroom.  If walking mobility is an issue - check online,  there are a lot of different exercises you can do from a seated position to get your heart rate up, chair aerobics, chair yoga etc.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  While the BMI has several flaws - most athletes come out as obese by this index - it is a good place to start to determine healthy weight.  The National Institute of Health has an online BMI calculator that I use.  Ideal is 18.5 - 24.9, but studies show that reducing your BMI even by a point or 2 will have a positive effect on your CVD risk.
  • Quit or don't start smoking.  It only takes 1-4 cigarettes a day to double your CVD risk.  and depending on the study second hand smoke is as dangerous or more dangerous, so support your friends and loved ones who want to quit, and have those that still smoke, smoke away from you.
  • Eat a diet that's low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.   Fiber from whole grains and vegetables are especially effective in lowering risk.  5 oz of nuts per week - almonds and walnuts especially. Fatty  fish at least 2x a week. (studies show supplements do not work as well as the actual fish) 
  • While a lot of attention is given to the saturated vs mono and polyunsaturated fats, less is given to Omega -3 fats.  These have been shown to help with blood lipid levels, clotting, contraction and relaxation of arterial walls.  Also shown to help, rheumatoid arthritis (which affects more  women than men, and macular degeneration.  Replacing some of our Omega 6 fatty acids - essential but high in Western diets - with Omega 3 fatty acids have many beneficial results in research tests.
  • Supplements - many substances that have positive research outcomes when obtained through food,  do not have the same outcome when research  is done on supplementation.  I"M NOT YOUR DOCTOR!!  don't stop taking supplements she/he wants you on!!  Whenever possible try to get your nutritional needs met through a healthy varied diet  (I actually take several supplements - but these have been recommended for my personal health issues , and based on my personal blood work - and have been agreed upon by my physician and a CDE nutritionist who specializes in diabetes, and who was aware of the issues with my weird form of diabetes.)
  • Get your bloodwork done. At least yearly - more often if health conditions mandate it.  But, make sure you get a copy of your blood work!!  Some labs will send the results directly to you when they send  the results to the Dr.  (mine does)  if not ask your Dr to have his staff make a copy for you.  They are YOUR results, you have a right to have them.  Keep them.  Compare them, see how they trend in different categories.  If your Dr says your cholesterol is good - does he mean one point from too low (apparently this is where mine was for a long time before they dropped below that line) is it right in the middle or is it a point away from being elevated??  These are important things for you to now as you make choices in your everyday life.  The change is important too.  Did you go on a low carb diet and lose weight but your triglycerides went up 10 points?  Even if they are still "normal"  you need to know this.  ASK questions!  You are a health consumer!!  Medical care is expensive - get your $$ worth!!

This is a list of some of the target numbers you should be monitoring for heart risk.  there are 2 other numbers that researchers know are involved in heart disease risk - but they are unsure of the exact mechanism or what the  target numbers should be.  Nonetheless, you can keep an eye on them especially if they start trending upward. They are homocysteine (routine screening not done - but Dr can request on lab work.  elevated levels are often found together with B vitamin deficiencies)  and C-reactive protein ( also not routine - and no target numbers yet exist - but can be an indicator of artherosclerosis in people with normal levels of blood cholesterol... really important for people like me)

One last caveat.  Aspirin gets a lot of press.  There has been a ton of research done on 80mg (baby aspirin) daily for MEN.  The research involving women is less conclusive.  Keep in mind that aspirin is a blood thinner.  Taking aspirin every day does increase your bleeding risk!  Talk to your doctor before starting or stopping an aspirin regimen on your own.  Mayo says it can be good for very high risk female patients, Harvard only recommends it for women who have already had a heart attack.  PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH THIS!!!

Don't miss tomorrow when I'll go over symptoms in women!!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Women's Heart Health

I know that most people posting about February being Heart Health month did so in the beginning of the month.  But, better late than never right??  Besides, I've been working on this post pretty much all month.  The last day of January, one of my best friend's younger sister died of a sudden massive heart attack. I think she is still somewhat in shock about it, but also going through the why her, why not me, the OMG I have a pain, is it a heart attack.  So in my head I keep reworking this post.  I'm going to look at it as a recap post for the month.

First of all, I am going to say that my mom had breast cancer - and has been cancer free for over 5 years now, so in no way shape or form am I saying that breast cancer awareness and research are not important.  However, for many women, breast cancer is the "big health scare".  It's what many of us worry about when we consider our long term health and mortality.  The media makes sure each and every day - not just in October - we are aware of our self exams, our boob squishing appointments, the need for more research.  But in a way this makes us lose focus on other female health and mortality issues.

In 2009 (the latest year I could find CDC statistics) 24% of women who died, died of heart disease.  That's almost one quarter!!  22.2% died of cancer - but lung cancer surpassed breast cancer has the most frequent cancer women die of over ten years ago.  And before you all start commenting that breast cancer directly affects females and heart disease affects everyone and research $ etc etc etc.  Men get breast cancer too. Ok not enough to affect research $$ ( male research goes to erectile dysfunction - we know their priorities) Female heart disease is different than male heart disease.

Yes.  Female heart disease is different than male heart disease.  Yes, much of the causes - diet, exercise, stress - are the same.  Cholesterol, sodium and saturated fats are a dietary issue for both sexes. Weight, and activity levels are risks for both sexes.  And since neither sex can't stop aging, no matter how hard the cosmetics industry tries, this is a risk for both sexes.  And all those risks are fairly well disseminated by the medical community and the media.
Research is done every day on those risks.

But. Women have a whole different set of risks.  And women have a different set of symptoms.  Many women do not realize they are having a heart attack.  Thus they do not reach out for medical help.  As women, we tend to do a great job of making sure the children and the men (ok when it comes to their health - they can be lumped in with the children)  are taken care of from a medical standpoint.  We tend not to do so for ourselves.

So stay tuned tomorrow, for our risks and what we can do to prevent heart disease as women.  And please definitely check back on Wednesday, for the symptoms for female heart attacks.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Need To Know All The Things!!!

Or at the very least most of them... ok, the things that penetrate my attention span into my brain, sorry Curt - bowling & computers just don't penetrate.
 I know I mentioned coursera a few times before. 

 The list above are classes I'm signed up for.  2 are ones I'm currently taking, 5 are scheduled for this year.  How sad is it that I'm already signed up for 3 classes next year, plus 6 unscheduled classes as well??  (Keep in mind, I have dropped 2 classes, so if these classes are boring, or un-interesting, or the work to learning ration is too steep - I may not finish them either)  Does anyone want to come play with me??  ( One of my "boss"es girlfriends is taking one of the Nutrition classes but we only really communicate when she asks him to ask me something)

 I'm currently taking 3 classes - that together don't take as much time or brainpower as the one astronomy class I finished.  This is the last week for my Astrobiology class - I think my avg there is 99.  I'm just over halfway in my Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.  I'm acing this class as well (feeling less like the dummy the Astronomy class made  me feel like) I'm also learning a ton of good info - about managing my diabetes, Curt's High Blood Pressure.  Tomorrow the topic posted will be about obesity - so even though I dropped my BMI from 42 to 32.6; I need to lose another 18 pounds just to make it to overweight. Sigh.  So again a week of high interest to me.  I'm also acing  Fundamentals of Human Nutrition.  Holy crap, this class is in such detail!!!  i feel like I'm in med school!  Just finished week 5 of 10, and my brain is full!  Seriously though I am also learning a ton - and the extra detail helps me understand more of the why's that the other nutrition class glosses over.  The only annoying thing is an ongoing "mind Map" assignment that I don't see how is helpful.  Plus it's unweildy!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I passed my class!

As some of you may remember - back oh about a hundred years when I was blogging, I took a class that started at the end of November and ended on Sunday.  The class was somewhat mis-named "Intro to Astronomy"  HAH!!  it also said that prior Physics experience was helpful, but not necessary.  HAH! HAH!  and that only basic algebra skills were required.  HAH!  HAH!  HAH!!

The class should have been called  "The Physics of the Universe - buckle your seatbelts, keep hands and feet inside the ride at all times"  It should have said brush up on Physics I & II before the class starts, or be prepared to learn Physics and Astronomy simultaneously.  It should have said - can you ace the AP Algebra test??  No?? start now or jump in the deep end.

 I "thought"  this class would be about constellations, and some basics of stars, nebula, planets, galaxies, black holes.  It was about the EVERYTHING of the Universe!!  The first week of understanding ascension and declination and meridians etc, to navigate the stars you see while looking up was what I expected.  At the end of that week?  my graded homework?  100.  YAY!

Second week, basic Physics  of orbits of planets and stuff.  100 great.

Then the hammer dropped.  I took algebra in high school.  8th & 9th grade to be exact.  I took the AP test and aced it in Calculus my Junior Year in High School.  Seriously people, I wasn't good, I was great at math.  Physics??  I took physics I & II in High School.  Then I took 5 semesters of it in college - not to mention that in ME most things are really applied Physics.  I always saw Physics as an easy A!!  I guess the thing I forgot was the 25 years between college and now.  And the fact that I can do my job without that much cranial exertion.  (it's sad - I rarely use a calculator at work, it's too much of a pain in the ass to pull out my phone, turn it on, get the calc app ... I can do arithmetic in my head faster... and this impresses the crap out of people)

Week 3 - 1. derive an expression....  2.  Use the expression from problem one to calculate...  3.  Use the data calculated in 2 to determine.....
Yeah, get one wrong, the rest are just totally screwed... my grade?? 60.

Then I did great week 4 & 5 100's both weeks.  

Week 6.  Subatomic Physics.  stuff ME's really don't play with much.  Brain hurt from the exercise.  My score... 15.

By the end of week 4, I was spending about 30 hours a week on a class I didn't need, and wouldn't get me anything.  Fortunately, the professor gave a 2 week extension on all homeworks, because people were struggling with week 2's homework and he really wanted people to keep on it until they understood what was going on.  That and the week we had "off" for Christmas.  So that gave me 3 extra weeks time to struggle through.  I even got the Angie to help me with some math - took her like 3 seconds to solve - while she was home for the Holidaze.

I finished my last set of graded homework with 2 hours to spare - and an 2 hours past my bedtime on Sunday night.  I needed a 40 to pass and get a completion certificate.  I got a 53!! I was never so happy to fail a quiz before.

Why did I stick it out?? Why did I let this class basically take over my entire life for 13 weeks??  I had already dropped 2 previous classes in different topics.  First, Astronomy has changed a lot since I used to hang out at an observatory in HS and college.  Black holes were a theory, we couldn't see them or have proof until we launched xray telescope satellites, Can't see this stuff from the ground.  The first planet around another star was discovered in 1992.. Angie was born that January, I was playing Mommy.  SO I had a real passion for a science when I was younger that pretty much  was obsolete.  I wanted to KNOW!!!

The second, biggest reason??  The professor who taught the class was phenomenal!!  Dr. Plesser from Duke University's Physics Dept.  He's not an astrophysicist.  He loves astronomy, and discovered he enjoyed teaching about it when his kids were young in school. so he taught the Intro to AStronomy class at Duke, and enjoyed it, and teaches it whenever he can work it in.  And really?  It shows.  He was always talking to the camera like it was a class, you could hear the enthusiasm and passion as he talked waving his hands around.  He didn't read from a prompter or a tablet or notes like other on line teachers do.  He just talked from his head/heart.  He'd pick up a stylus and show us how a formula was derived, usually I had to watch those pieces a couple times, even when the finished formula was right on the next power point slide.  He really made me  want to finish , want to understand everything he was saying.  Duke is lucky to have a teacher like him, a true teacher.  One of my friend's kids is considering Duke, I told him if he ever got a chance to take this guy in person he must!!