I ask that question because the term ‘heart disease’ is generic. Heart disease or cardiopathy is an umbrella term for a variety of different diseases affecting the heart. It covers all things wrong with the heart, from coronary heart disease to ischemia to heart failure. This shouldn’t surprise us, however, as the same can be said for cancer. The term ‘cancer’ obviously covers the nature of the disease. However, it’s only when you focus on where the cancer lies that one is able to determine appropriate treatment.
Just the same, it took me a while before I realized that I had a specific type of heart disease. When first diagnosed, I figured one size fit all. Thankfully, I have a cardiologist who knows the difference; especially as it affects women.
Information from the Cedars Sinai Women’s Heart Center tells us, “For men, heart disease often manifests as blockage in the large arteries of the heart. One of the major discoveries of the WISE study is that many women with chest pain or other symptoms have microvascular disease, a narrowing of the small arteries and blood vessels of the heart. Blood flow to the heart is restricted by fatty plaque buildup, but the restriction does not show up in traditional diagnostic exams."
Could It Be Coronary Microvascular Heart Disease?
Information from The Women's Heart Center continues, "until recently, this difference led physicians to discount the possibility of heart disease in many female patients. These women often found themselves making repeated visits to physicians and hospitals trying to unravel the mysteries of their symptoms.”
I continue to read of dozens if not hundreds of women asking for advice as to what their symptoms mean. Tests are run but no conclusive evidence of heart disease is found. So many of them faced with apathetic doctors who, because this is a relatively new diagnosis, find themselves frustrated and thinking that it’s all in their heads.
Well, it’s not.
Women often experience chest symptoms differently than men. It’s all of those tiny microvessels that surround the heart that malfunction. Traditional testing, such as angiograms and EKG’s may not be able to identify the problem; at least not at the outset. Specialized testing must be done in order to determine if it is in fact CMD. For instance, there is a specific type of angiogram one can undergo which tests how your microvessels respond to different medications.
Identifying the Culprit
Only after determining what kind of heart disease you have can you obtain appropriate care. If you find yourself in the hands of a doctor who is not familiar with CMD, find a doctor who is. Don’t give up because the answers are out there.