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Sunday Morning News
Women Face Heart Ailments Specific to Their GenderAired February 11, 2001 - 8:37 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Much is said about matters of the heart during the month of February. Cupid will certainly try to make some matches and mend some broken hearts on Valentine's Day. But a more serious heart issue is also taking center stage this month, heart disease among women.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra joins us from New York to talk more about it. He is the author of the book, "Heart Sense for Women." Dr. Sinatra, good morning.
DR. STEPHEN SINATRA, CARDIOLOGIST: Good morning, Kyra. It's good to be here.
PHILLIPS: Nice to have you.
SINATRA: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Well, let's play doctor here for a moment and why don't you tell us the difference between women and men's hearts.
SINATRA: Well, basically a woman's heart and a man's heart are similar, but a woman's heart is a lot smaller and, consequentially, the vessels are smaller. And when the vessels become obstructed or diseased, because she has smaller arteries, these arteries are highly inflammatory where they're smaller and they're non-negotiable and it takes the surgeon or an angioplastic cardiologist more skill and more technique to fix them.
So she's behind the eight ball because of the smaller nature of these vessels.
PHILLIPS: Is that why women are at greater risk for heart disease?
SINATRA: That's one of the reasons. The anatomical reason is the major reason, but another major reason, Kyra, is that women just don't get the symptoms that men do and frequently, up to 25 percent of the time, there's no symptoms at all for heart disease and this causes a delay in diagnosis. And when this happens, complications can set in and this places the woman in harm's way of even sudden death.
PHILLIPS: All right, well, talk to us about some early warning signals. SINATRA: Well, the best warning signals that I would say would be profound weakness in a woman or neck pain or jaw pain, not the typical TMJ pain, but if a woman has new onset pain radiating up into her jaw or her neck that is something new and if she -- intuitively, if she feels that something dreadful can happen, this can be a sign of heart disease.
Certainly any aspects of shoulder pain or back pain or even profound shortness of breath can lead a woman into the emergency room and hopefully the diagnosis can be made.
PHILLIPS: If a diagnosis is made, is there, I mean would women take the same type of medication that the men do or is there a difference because their hearts are different?
SINATRA: Well, medications are similar, unfortunately, and this brings up another problem. Many of the research studies on both men and women have been done predominantly in men and many of the medications that affect men will affect women differently, particularly the cholesterol lowering drugs or the high blood pressure drugs.
In my book, "Heart Sense for Women," for example, I talk about treating high blood pressure in Afro-American women, and this is very, very difficult because many of these women just don't respond to the typical standard pharmacological drugs.
PHILLIPS: Well, something else you talked about in your book was the whole spiritual healing. Will you go into that a little bit more and why you think that's extremely important besides medical help?
SINATRA: Absolutely. You know, Kyra, one of the refrains of heart disease and one of the good aspects of heart disease is that when you have a life threatening illness, this can cause you to dig deeper into your emotional and spiritual self. So I've had many of my patients tell me that their heart disease was a gift in disguise. And spiritually, many of these people really were able to go to a higher level because of the onset of their heart disease.
You know, when anybody faces sudden death or a threatening illness like this, it really makes you reflect on your life and many of my patients have made profound changes in their lifestyle as a result of their illness.
PHILLIPS: Well, tell us about some of the changes we can make right now. I mean you've got me thinking about this. I never really did. I mean do I need to start eating differently, exercise? I mean those are the basics, right?
SINATRA: Those are the basics, but any woman -- first of all, any woman, Kyra, who approaches the age of 45, her incidence of heart disease goes up 400 percent. So you must start earlier than 45 and I would tell every woman to eat a healthy diet, particularly the Mediterranean diet, which is using olive oil, grains, fruits and vegetables, less meats and onions and garlic. These are all healthy foods. Exercise like walking the dog is perfectly acceptable. And my most important program, I call it my third pillar of healing, is taking targeted nutritional supports, particularly vitamins like Coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine (ph), alphalipoic acid (ph), Vitamins C and E and calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, lutein to prevent macular degeneration.
And again, our fourth segment of healing would be the mind-body interactions which we talked about.
PHILLIPS: The name of the book, "Heart Sense for Women." We're going to take a look at it. I think we took a shot of it. There it is. The author, Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Thank you so much for joining us, doctor.
SINATRA: Thank you, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, and happy Valentine's Day.
SINATRA: Oh, yeah, likewise.
PHILLIPS: All right.
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