Heart disease is not primarily "the Male" disease. Women can also die from related heart diseases such as Mrs. Mallard in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin. Heart disease and contributing risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure can cause the following problems: atheroma, congestive heart failure, heart valve problems, and eventually she would have to have a heart transplant.
In the short story "The Story of an Hour," Kate Chopin writes about an older woman that has heart disease. Her sister told Mrs. Mallard, the older woman that her husband was on the manifest of a train that wrecked and everyone died. After she recovered from the news, she went downstairs to see her family. All of a sudden, there was a knock on the door, she opened the door and there stood her husband. It shocked her so much that she dropped dead of a heart attack right where she stood.
Mrs. Mallard dying of a heart attack and one way to avoid that is to stop the controllable risk factors. Smoking is the biggest risk factor that she can control. Smoking takes a toll on women no matter what their age. Each time she inhales cigarette smoke, she is drawing a mixture of 4,000 chemical substances into her body. Cigarette smoke damages her heart in two ways. First, the toxic materials injure the walls of her coronary arteries and, in attempting to repair them; her body unknowingly creates conditions for fatty acids to develop. Second, tobacco smoke works independently to activate her body's blood clotting system, promoting clots that can block her arteries and cause a heart attack, (Pashkow and Libov 29).
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From the position of cardiovascular medicine, diabetes is a cardiovascular disease, (American Heart Association Journals 1999). Close to 2.5 million American women are estimated to have high blood sugar or diabetes according to the Society for Women's Health Research. Over eighty percent of diabetics die from a heart or blood vessel disease. Diabetic women's risk of heart attack is over double non-diabetic women's risk, (Nakazawa 62).
Diabetes is the inability of the body to produce or respond to insulin properly. The risk of a heart attack increases with diabetes because atherosclerosis speeds up. (Chung 40). Diabetes causes changes in the nerve cells that can result in her body misinterpreting pain signals, such as chest pain. Most women believe that they weigh too much. By definition, obesity means 30% extra weight, and about 60% of American people are obese. Obesity is one of the major coronary risk factors. Abdominal obesity is a particularly strong coronary risk factor. Obese people with waistlines more than 36 inches and high triglyceride levels are at high risk for developing coronary artery disease within 5 years, (Chung 32-33). The fat around her middle makes her more vulnerable to such ailments as hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease, (Pashkow and Libov 39).
High blood pressure is responsible for more heart attacks than strokes in the United States. Treatment of high blood pressure will reduce the risk of both heart attack and stroke. The cause of high blood pressure is not known in most people. The high pressure in the arteries damages the lining and accelerates the development of atherosclerosis or atheroma. High blood pressure forces the heart to work harder at pumping blood to other parts of the body, (Goldmann 34, 36). If undetected, high blood pressure can result in a form of heart disease called "hypertensive cardiovascular disease," in which her heart becomes enlarged and eventually weakens, (Pashkow and Libov 40).
The definition of atheroma is a hardening of the arteries in the heart. Atherosclerosis is another name for atheroma. What happens with atheroma is fat deposits start to form on the inside walls of the arteries. When the fat deposits start to build up, they form lumps that stick out into the inside of the artery and reduce the blood flow. As the lumps grow, they thicken and weaken the wall of the artery in the heart and eventually reduce blood flow to any organ in her body. (Goldmann 19). Atheroma is labeled as a one-, two-, or three-vessel disease of the heart. That refers to whether the three main branches, the right coronary artery and the two main branches of the left coronary artery, are affected. One- or two-vessel atheroma disease may be treated with medication or angioplasty. Three- vessel atheroma disease, which affects all the major coronary arteries, often requires artery bypass surgery, (Goldmann 20).
Congestive Heart Failure, otherwise known as CHF, sounds as if she has a tragic and deadly disease. However, congestive heart failure is simply that her heart is too weak to perform its duties properly. There are many forms of congestive heart failure. The most common form is where pressure "backs up" in the pulmonary veins so fluid collects in the lungs and in the tissues of the legs, (Pashkow and Libov 181). Congestive heart failure is most commonly caused by heart problems. Some symptoms of congestive heart failure are shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, coughing, body swelling, and rapid heartbeat. When treating congestive heart failure, doctors will try to treat the underlying disease with medication and in severe cases hospitalization.
A normal human heart has four valves tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic. All four valves must function properly in order to circulate blood effectively. (Pashkow and Libov 109). Heart valve failure occurs in one of two ways: aortic stenosis or mitral regurgitation. Aortic
stemosis or mitral stemosis occurs in the aortic or mitral valve and is defined as a stiffening of the valve, (Pashkow and Libov 191). When aortic or mitral stemosis occurs it causes the valves to become stiff, so they do not open and shut freely. When mitral regurgitation occurs, the valve becomes "leaky." Mitral regurgitation usually occurs in the mitral valve and it allows blood to flow backwards. Some of the causes of heart valve problems are coronary disease, heart attack, congenital defects, aging, rheumatic heart disease, or mitral valve prolapse. There are not many known symptoms until it is discovered during her physical examination. Nevertheless, some of those symptoms are exhaustion, lung congestion, irregular heart rhythms, and chest pain, (Pashkow and Libov 191). Most normal treatment of valvular disorder is valve repair or replacement, or balloon valvuloplasty, (Pashkow and Libov 193).
After the doctors exhaust every possible treatment, medicine, or procedure, they will suggest a heart transplant. Heart transplant is where her diseased heart is taken out and a healthy heart is put in. When the doctors decide that she needs a transplant, she is put on the transplant list. Heart transplants are very difficult psychological experiences because she realizes that a healthy person has to die to give her life. The idea of someone else's heart going in her body can be scary. Some people believe that because she has someone else's heart, she will start to do things she would not normally do. Transplant surgeries are not too common because it is hard to come by the donor organs. After a transplant, a woman can live for several years provided her body does not reject the donor heart. Candidates for heart transplants are usually under 60 years of age. There is not a limit on how young the person can be because babies are born with defective hearts and need new ones.
Women are often misdiagnosed with problems not associated to the heart because their symptoms are less obvious and differ from men's. As shown, there are many controllable and uncontrollable risks for a heart attack. Heart attack is the number one killer of American women. Over 233,000 women die annually from heart attacks. Each year, approximately 18,900 females under age 65 die from coronary heart disease, with 35 percent under age 55, (Nakazawa 62).
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