Hard-To-Spot Heart Disease; Women Beware

Hard-to-spot and undiagnosed heart diseases may exist with women who have already been examined, new research suggests. In fact, three million women in the United States have a form of heart disease known as coronary microvascular dysfunction (MVD), which cannot be detected by standard testing, PR Newswirereports.

The leading cardiothoracic surgeon at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Doctor Farzan Filsoufi, says normal angiograms are not enough to detect hard-to-spot heart diseases in women:

“Women who have an angiogram (which is notices blockages in large arteries) is likely to show their arteries to be normal. If you receive a ‘normal’ angiogram but still have other heart symptoms, ask your doctor whether you might have a problem with your small arteries and request a functional vascular imaging test.”

Women are more likely to have coronary MVD, the hard-to-spot heart disease, than men, research and autopsy studies have shown. The pathology of women who die from heart attacks is often quite different than those of men who die similarly.

With women, it is more likely that plaque is deposited uniformly in the inside of small vessels, which could result in chronic inflammation. Plaque is more likely to build up in isolated areas for men.

It is thought that the inflammation which is brought on by MVD diseases happens because of drops in estrogen levels associated with menopause.

The leading cause of deaths worldwide is heart disease. Nearly two-thirds of women who die unexpectedly from coronary heart disease, likely had no previous symptoms, the American Heart Association says.

Women who experience any symptoms should take notice and consider hard-to-spot heart diseases. Filsoufi advises women to act quickly if they experience any symptoms:

“Even if you’re not sure you’re having a heart attack, act quickly—call 911 immediately. Hospitals have clot-busting medicines and other artery-opening procedures that can stop a heart attack. These treatments work best when given within the first hour after a heart attack starts.”