How to Diagnose Heart Disease in Women

The method of diagnosing heart disease in women can actually be a bit more problematic than for men. Firstly, women generally have subtler signs that this condition is present, making it less likely for a woman to even come in for testing. After that, many doctors, according to the Cleveland Clinic, will ultimately lean toward other conditions before truly looking at heart disease as the culprit. From there, some of the more standard tests performed in the diagnosis of heart disease surprisingly are less accurate for women than men, but certain variances, like the size of a woman's heart, can be accounted for to make these tests more accurate.

  1. Physical Exam

    • Before any other tests or screenings are performed, both women and men will usually go through some sort of physical examination. This is done to simply give the doctor an idea if any disease, including heart disease, is present in the patient. Though the symptoms of heart disease are subtler in women, a number of doctors are aware of these indicators and can help to point them to the potential of this particular condition.

    Electrocardiogram

    • With this test for diagnosing heart disease, electrodes are placed on the body to record the activity of the heart at rest and at stress. The rate and rhythm of your heart is recorded while lying down and then again during physical exertion (on a treadmill) to give the doctor some idea of whether or not you're receiving proper blood flow to the vessel and if there's the potential of distress. While results will be different between men and women, a doctor can arrive at a better diagnosis when the smaller size of her heart is taken into consideration, according to the Cleveland Clinic, as well as the use of an echocardiogram is applied.

    Echocardiogram

    • An echocardiogram is basically an ultrasound of your chest, according to the Mayo Clinic, that creates an image of your heart, showing both its function and its structure. For women, this often used in conjunction with an electrocardiogram to better diagnose whether or not heart disease is the condition in question. After this screening is performed, the results are transmitted to a computer so a series of images can be connected together to create a sort of movie of a woman's heart, allowing the doctor to visually see how the heart is performing.

    Blood Test

    • Many doctors will perform a blood test along with both the electrocardiogram and the echocardiogram, especially when there is the potential of a heart attack. What these test can indicate are certain proteins, like kinase, troponin and myoglobin, found in the blood that are directly linked to the condition.

    Angiography (Cardiac Catheterization)

    • Another somewhat common test used in diagnosing heart disease in women is something called angiography, which is essentially used to gage the blood flow of the coronary arteries. Dye is injected into the arteries to give the doctor a picture of any blockages that are present within those arteries supplying blood to the heart. This test, much like the others, are rarely done alone and usually performed in tandem with other screenings to better diagnose heart disease, especially in women.

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