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Improved heart disease diagnosis for women

June 23, 2014

The American Heart Association recently announced the discovery of a more accurate way to diagnose heart disease in women. This new understanding and knowledge of symptoms, combined with a healthy lifestyle for seniors, can help protect them from heart disease.

Coronary heart disease occurs when the blood isn't able to flow well to the heart. The cause of slowed blood flow is often a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Non-obstructive coronary heart disease affects the smaller coronary arteries and the artery lining. These areas spasm, blocking blood flow. Women are diagnosed with non-obstructive coronary disease more commonly than men.

Recent research has shown that women may have non-obstructive coronary disease when a stress test is positive, resulting in elevated risk for heart attack. Now doctors have a better idea of how to detect heart disease, analyze risks and find treatment strategies specifically for women. 

Talking to the doctor about your risk
Classic symptoms of an impending heart attack include upper back pain, jaw pain, widespread indigestion and left-side chest pain. According to the National Institutes of Health, women may experience other symptoms such as anxiety, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. 

The AHA recommended women talk to their doctors about any diagnostic tests that may be beneficial. Physcians should determine your biggest risks are based on your age, weight, presence of diabetes, blood pressure and more. They are expected to also consider your ability to keep up with daily activities when deciding if you should be screened for non-obstructive coronary heart disease.

Protect yourself
Lifestyle changes and senior health tips can prevent the development of heart disease in older women.

Seniors should limit alcohol to one drink per day and avoid smoking or using tobacco. Exercise may contribute to women staying healthy longer. It's recommended that people looking to maintain health should spend 30 minutes a day engaging in physical activity, at least  five days a week. If you find yourself feeling chronically sad or withdrawn, it may be best to get checked and treated for depression, as the condition can increase the risk for heart disease.

A balanced diet is key to controlling risk factors. This is one that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains while cutting down on sodium, processed food, baked goods and fried food. Lean proteins and low-fat dairy products are positive additions to your diet.