Putting It All Together; New Medical Research Shows How Different from Men Women Really Are. Take Heart Disease: Women's Symptoms Are More Subtle and Often Get Overlooked. What to Watch for, What to Do

Newsweek International, May 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Putting It All Together; New Medical Research Shows How Different from Men Women Really Are. Take Heart Disease: Women's Symptoms Are More Subtle and Often Get Overlooked. What to Watch for, What to Do


Byline: Claudia Kalb and Karen Springen, With Joan Raymond and Emily Flynn

Like most women, Helen Bryce, 44, wife, mother and manager at a London-based computer company, was well acquainted with the emotional chambers in her heart. Joy, sadness, love. But Bryce never thought much about her heart as a muscular pump: the size of a fist, weighing less than a can of soda, beating 100,000 times a day. And she certainly didn't think it was vulnerable to disease. Neither did her doctor. When she went to him complaining of stomach cramps last May, he told her it was indigestion. When the cramps didn't go away, the diagnosis changed to gallstones. But while Bryce was waiting for her nonpriority gallstones appointment--weeks away--the pains got so bad that she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The diagnosis: heart attack. "I didn't think [the doctor] was talking to me," she says. "I was thinking, 'Women my age can't have heart problems'."

That's a misconception many women share. According to the World Heart Federation, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of mortality among women worldwide, accounting for more than one third of all female deaths--about 8 million each year. That figure is 18 times higher than the number of deaths caused by breast cancer, and six times higher than HIV/AIDS-related deaths. Women who have heart attacks are treated less aggressively, fare worse and die at higher rates than men. And yet the vast majority of women worry more about their husband's dropping dead than they do about the danger lurking in their own blood vessels. "You just think it doesn't apply to you," says Bryce. "The biggest problem for women is changing this perception."

As the population ages and cardiovascular hazards like diabetes continue to rise, women are more at risk than ever. In response, public-health officials have launched awareness campaigns to sound the alarm about this "silent killer." Scientists are busy unraveling the unique and sometimes mysterious ways in which coronary disease develops in a woman's body. And doctors in the know are educating their peers, many of whom still operate under the bias that men have a monopoly on matters of the heart. All the attention is starting to pay off, says cardiologist Bernadine Healy, the first female director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, who helped put women and heart disease on the map, "but there's no doubt we have a way to go."

From an anatomical point of view, a woman's heart is no different from a man's: four chambers and several ounces of muscle tissue. But the symptoms of heart disease in men and women can appear as different as, well, the colors blue and pink. Men typically experience difficulty breathing and chest pain--still considered the hallmark symptom of a heart attack--which can travel up to the jaw and down the arm. Many women, however, feel no chest sensation at all, and their symptoms are often subtle: an unyielding fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea or indigestion, back or abdominal pain, or just an odd, unwell feeling. Compounding all that is the fact that too many women downplay their health for the sake of their families, says Dr. Vera Rigolin, of Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital: "They tend to ignore the symptoms because they have to take care of everybody else."

Carolyn O'Donnell, 62, remembers feeling "like a wuss" when her husband made her go to the ER. A runner and golfer, O'Donnell is normally an upbeat, high-energy grandmother of four. But on April Fool's Day 2002, she felt a little bit off. She was tired, she had a headache and she noticed an odd sensation near her heart. It was mild, though, no radiating pain, nothing more than "a mouse on my chest," she says, not that elephant everybody worries about. Her self-diagnosis: probably just the flu. But O'Donnell's husband--luckily, a physician--insisted she be checked out. Doctors discovered a piece of plaque clogging a crucial artery and a heart working at half its normal capacity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Putting It All Together; New Medical Research Shows How Different from Men Women Really Are. Take Heart Disease: Women's Symptoms Are More Subtle and Often Get Overlooked. What to Watch for, What to Do
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.