Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, but it can manifest differently in women. In addition, certain types of heart disease affect women more often than men.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). This occurs as a result of plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) causing a decrease in blood flow to the heart muscle. It is well known that women may experience different symptoms of CAD than men. One of the most common symptoms is chest pain, also known as angina, which occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. In men, angina tends to manifest as a pressure or squeezing sensation in the chest. Although women also have chest pain, they are more likely to have atypical symptoms such as indigestion, shortness of breath or pain in the neck, jaw, stomach or back.
Coronary microvascular disease (MVD) is similar to CAD in that it affects the blood supply to the heart muscle. Instead of the major coronary arteries being blocked by significant plaque, in MVD there is spasm of the smaller arteries of the heart. This disorder affects women in greater numbers than men. Risk factors for coronary MVD are similar to those for CAD, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol. As with CAD, angina is the most common symptom. However, in MVD, the angina tends to occur during normal daily activities and at times of mental stress.
Broken heart syndrome is another type of heart disease that is more common in women. Broken heart syndrome is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy and is characterized by chest pain and shortness of breath. Although, the symptoms are similar to a heart attack, stress-induced cardiomyopathy is not associated with significantly blocked coronary arteries. As the name implies, this syndrome develops as a result of extreme emotional or physical stress. Most individuals completely recover within a short amount of time with appropriate treatment.
Because heart disease often affects women differently than men, Emory created the Women’s Heart Center, a unique program dedicated to diagnosis, screening, treatment and prevention of heart disease in women. The Emory Women’s Heart Center physicians understand these differences and have specialized education and expertise in this area.
About Dr. Isiadinso
Ijeoma Isiadinso, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Isiadinso completed her undergraduate studies at Binghamton University in New York, majoring in biology and sociology. She then pursued a joint degree in medicine and public health at MCP Hahnemann (Drexel University) School of Medicine. Dr. Isiadinso completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. She served as chief fellow during the final year of her cardiology fellowship.
Her commitment to public health has led to her involvement in several projects focused on heart disease and diabetes. She has participated in research projects with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She has been the recipient of numerous awards and presented her work at national conferences. Her research interests include inequalities in health care, community and preventive health, lipid disorders, women and heart disease, and program development and evaluation.
Dr. Isiadinso has served as the health advisor to nonprofit organizations. She has participated in panel discussions at high schools and universities and with the Black Entertainment Television Foundation.
Dr. Isiadinso is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography and cardiovascular computed tomography. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Association of Black Cardiologists, the American College of Cardiology, the American Society of Preventive Cardiology and the American Public Health Association.
About the Emory Women’s Heart Center
Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to screening for, preventing and treating heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned cardiologist Gina Lundberg, MD, provides comprehensive cardiac risk assessments and screenings for patients at risk for heart disease, as well as a full range of treatment options for women already diagnosed with heart disease. Call 404-778-7777 to schedule a comprehensive cardiac screening and find out if you are at risk for heart disease.