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Carrie Fisher's Death Spotlights Women's Heart Risks

Carrie Fisher's Death Spotlights Women's Heart Risks

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By    |   Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:06 PM

Actress Carrie Fisher’s death from a heart attack at age 60 this week came as a shock to family, friends, and fans. But cardiologists say her death spotlights the often-underestimated threat of heart disease in post-menopausal women — the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Many people falsely believe heart problems are a “man’s disease,” but more women than men die of cardiovascular disorders, that are often missed because they aren’t taken as seriously by patients or their doctors.

Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars," died Tuesday after reportedly suffering a heart attack aboard a flight on Friday. She was 60.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a leading cardiologist who focuses on women’s well-being tells Newsmax Health that it’s possible that Fisher’s had had symptoms of heart problems weeks or months before her death but they were not addressed. In fact, most women who have a heart attack have symptoms beforehand.

“Fisher suffered her first heart attack at age 60, approximately 10 years after menopause,” says Goldberg, medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone. “She may have ignored symptoms that come on typically six weeks prior to the heart attack.”

The problem is that women’s heart attack symptoms are often different from those experienced by men. Women’s symptoms may include mild pain in the upper chest and lower abdomen, which Fisher may have mistaken for stomach pain.

While men typically experience crushing chest pain, women experiencing a heart attack may feel only shortness of breath with little exertion and pressure in the upper back.

“If she had these warning signs she should have seen a doctor immediately to check her blood pressure, cholesterol levels, take an electrocardiogram and perhaps a stress test to identify a potential problem with her heart,” Goldberg says.

She adds that Fisher may also have had some of the hallmark risk factors for heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer of men and women, causing nearly 600,000 deaths a year.

“The risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and lack of exercise,” she adds.

Fisher died several days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday.

Dr. Kevin Campbell, a leading cardiologist from North Carolina, notes the only thing that could have saved Fisher would have been prompt medical attention onboard her flight.

“When you have a heart attack, the blood vessels that supply oxygen, blood and nutrients to the heart become blocked — this is the heart attack,” he tells Newsmax Health.

“One of the complications of a heart attack is cardiac arrest. When this happens the heart begins to beat erratically and can no longer pump blood to the brain and other essential organs. This erratic heart rhythm is called ventricular fibrillation. The only effective treatment for cardiac arrest is prompt CPR en route the flight.”

Campbell — assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Division of Cardiology — also stresses that sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. today.

“It is also important to note that more women than men die every year from cardiac arrest,” he notes. “Women remain under treated and underserved. Because women have atypical symptoms such as nausea, back pain, feeling of dread, and flu symptoms as opposed to the classic symptoms of chest pain that men have, they may not be aware that they are having a heart attack.”

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'Star Wars' Actress Carrie Fisher's death spotlights the underestimated threat of heart disease in women.
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Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:06 PM
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