Red Flags for Women
All women know this statement to be true: we are different from men! No place is this statement more evident than in evaluating for heart attack and stroke. 64% of women who die suddenly of a heart attack had no idea that they had heart disease. The death rate among women aged 35 to 44 has been increasing by 1.3% per year since 1997.
So what are the red flags, or possible warning signs, that are specific to women for vascular disease. Let me briefly summarize a few studies.
Women who have migraines with aura in mid-life are at increased risk of stroke.
One study showed that women in their early 20's with polycystic ovarian disease who were checked 20 years later had found to have more hidden vascular disease than women without this disease.
Women with pre-eclampsia (during pregnancy) had double the risk of stroke and heart disease 10 to 12 years later and also increased risk for blood clots in 4 to 5 years.
Gestational diabetes is linked with a 66% increased risk of future vascular disease over 12 years.
Psychosocial issues in both men and women are the 3rd most important risk factor for heart disease. Women have a higher risk for heart attacks if divorced one or more times, and men have an increased risk if divorced 2 or more times.
The list goes on and on. Bottom line - we need to completely assess women for vascular disease who have red flags that might not be obvious unless we know to look for them. It is important to find a provider that is educated on how women with vascular disease might present differently from men.