Heart disease in women doesn’t always come with chest pain

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DEAR DR. ROACH: I’m a 68-year-old woman. In June 2012, I would get out of breath going up or down my stairs or down the street. I had to sit down and rest for at least 15 minutes, after which I felt better for a while. In June 2014, I called my doctor’s office, and they did a series of tests. This included a treadmill stress test. I went to a big hospital, and a cardiologist checked me out. My arteries were 99 percent blocked. The doctor put in a stent and put me on a better diet, and now I feel much better. — P.C.

ANSWER: The symptoms of artery blockage are not the same for everyone. Few people have chest pain (unless they are having a heart attack). Chest pressure or discomfort is common; however, you don’t have to have chest pressure, and women are more likely than men to have symptoms other than chest symptoms. Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of women.

Shortness of breath that comes with exercise is a well-known symptom, but some people also describe a sense of nausea, stomachache or dizziness. These symptoms, especially when accompanying exercise, should be evaluated by your clinician. This applies most especially if they are new. In your case, you had had them for two years, so it’s possible you’ve had symptoms of heart disease for a long while without recognizing what they meant.

Stents for blockages in the arteries are useful in some people to relieve symptoms. Not everyone with a blockage needs to have the artery opened or stented; however, people with symptoms of blocked arteries that don’t improve with medication often benefit from stenting, even though stents have never been proven to increase length of life.

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I’m glad your doctor talked to you about diet. Many times, we forget to give dietary advice to people with heart disease. There are a variety of options for healthy diets, but a more plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been proven to reduce heart-disease risk.

The booklet on heart disease discusses clogged heart arteries, why they happen and what can be done to prevent clogging. Readers can obtain a copy by writing:

Dr. Roach

Book No. 101

628 Virginia Dr.

Orlando, FL 32803

Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I have been on Plavix 75 mg and aspirin 81 mg for years, and I drink green tea daily because of its beneficial qualities. I recently heard that green tea has vitamin K and counteracts the coagulation effect. I stopped drinking the green tea. Please discuss this in your daily medical articles. — R.H.

ANSWER: Although green tea leaves contain high amounts of vitamin K, brewed green tea has very little. Since vitamin K is fat-soluble, not much gets into water. A modest amount of green tea is considered safe for people taking warfarin, which works by blocking the production of vitamin-K-dependent clotting factors in the liver.

Plavix (clopidogrel) works not on clotting factors, but by preventing platelets, the blood-clotting cells, from becoming activated. Aspirin also works on platelets. So, there are two reasons you don’t need to worry about drinking your green tea.

Green tea has many properties, and there have been well-done studies that have shown health benefits from drinking it. For example, regular green-tea drinkers are at significantly lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. It also may reduce the risk of lung cancer.

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Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.

(c) 2017 North America Syndicate Inc.

All Rights Reserved

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