I’m a woman in my 40s. I feel fine but my father developed heart failure in his 50s. Is heart failure any more or less common among women than men? How can I reduce my risk?
Heart failure is equally common in women and men. Unfortunately, women are often so busy taking care of children, spouses and elderly parents that they don’t get sufficient care for themselves. You must make time to see your family doctor for periodic physicals and, if necessary, referrals to a cardiologist (and other specialists).
Hypertension (high blood pressure) and coronary artery disease can increase your risk of developing heart failure. Therefore, the diagnosis and treatment of these problems are important. Your physician can help you identify and control cardiovascular risk factors that may be playing a role, such as smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, poor diet and lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and sleep apnea.
Your physician needs a specific and detailed family history because heart failure may be genetic and affect members within a family. Your family history may lead to screening tests such as an echocardiogram to evaluate the heart’s function.
Different Causes of Heart Failure
In order for the heart to efficiently pump out blood, it has to be able to contract, or squeeze, normally, and relax, to fill with blood normally. Inability to contract normally is a cause of heart failure in both men and women. As women get older, heart failure can often be due to the heart’s inability to relax, causing fluid retention.
About the Doctor
Sharon Rubin, MD, earned her medical degree at Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia. She completed her internship, residency in internal medicine and a cardiology fellowship at Temple University Hospital. Dr. Rubin has a wealth of experience in end-stage heart failure and cardiac transplantation. She also has a special interest in adult congenital heart disease and obstetric care in the cardiac patient.