Heart DiseaseDiseases involving the heart—heart disease, heart attacks, etc.—often present themselves very differently in men versus women. As you might expect, hormones have a lot to do with why. Estrogen is thought to offer protection against heart disease by keeping blood vessels flexible. That’s why it’s pretty unusual for healthy premenopausal women to suffer from heart disease or a heart attack. However, with the dramatic drop in hormone production that occurs during menopause, that layer of protection goes away. Menopause also brings about other changes that increase heart disease risk, including higher blood pressure, raised triglycerides, and elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol. As a result, women become much more vulnerable to heart disease, heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, and other serious heart issues. To add insult to injury, women often fare worse than men too. One of the biggest reasons is that they rarely experience the telltale chest and arm pain that men do when they have heart attacks—and they could have heart disease but remain symptom-free for years. This means so many women end up doing the worst possible thing when suffering a serious heart event…they do nothing. If it’s hard to understand why, take a look at some of the most common symptoms of heart attack in women:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Nausea/indigestion/stomach pain
- Feeling of weakness/heaviness in arms
DepressionWhile heart disease is the biggest condition that presents itself differently in men and women, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to discuss depression. Depression has been a major topic in the news lately, due to the very unfortunate suicides of some well-known celebrities. While the vast majority of people who deal with depression don’t suffer the same fate (thankfully), research is finding that men and women do present some different symptom patterns. I want to share this with you so that you know what to look out for in yourself or your loved ones. Overall, the core symptoms of depression that men and women experience are fairly similar. They include sadness, lack of motivation, sleep problems, loss of pleasure in once-beloved activities, and feelings of guilt and despair. However, studies suggest that how men and women
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Risky activity
- “Escaping” by working late or spending excessive time away from “normal” life
- Chomistek A, et al. Healthy lifestyle in the primordial prevention of cardiovascular disease among young women. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Jan 6;65(1):43-51. Last accessed June 11, 2018.
- Schimelpfening N. Is depression different in males and females? 19 May 2018. Last accessed June 12, 2018.