Ashtabula County Medical Center | ACMC Pulse | Summer 2023

Speak up sooner rather than later In most cases, if the heart itself is not damaged, heart disease is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart—known as angina. Dr. Al-Assaad said women can experience unique causes of angina, including spasms of the arteries around the heart or changes in the arteries during childbearing. When blood flow to the heart is reduced, women may also experience heart attack-like symptoms but not have a full blockage of the arteries. Because the artery is not completely blocked, there is more time to diagnose and treat the cause of the blockage. Dr. Al-Assaad emphasized that women should not ignore symptoms until it is too late. “All of us need to learn these symptoms and talk about them with each other. We need to look out for each other,” he said. He also suggested women talk about heart health with their primary care provider sooner rather than later. If there are potential health risks or early symptoms, diagnostic tests can reveal heart disease. “Many people believe a stress test is the primary way we diagnose heart disease, but for women who are experiencing symptoms of reduced blood flow, a stress test will not show these blocked arteries,” Dr. Al-Assaad said. However, tests such as a CT scan or PET scan will show buildup in the coronary arteries. An MRI can also show any heart defects or changes in the heart muscle itself. Once diagnostic tests show potential causes of heart disease, treatment options ranging from lifestyle changes to medication to surgery can be discussed with a patient. “I strongly believe that women should know their heart health risks and control those,” Dr. Al-Assaad said. “Risk factors that are in your control include lifestyle choices, such as what you eat, smoking or exercise. Risk factors that may be out of your control include a family history of heart disease.” HAVE A HEART-TO-HEART TALK After talking with a primary care provider, women who still have heart health concerns can schedule an appointment with Dr. Al-Assaad or any of the cardiology specialists at Ashtabula County Medical Center by calling 440-994-7622. ACMC Pulse • 11