Marshall Medical’s Dr. Scott Yoder is fond of saying, “Women are mysterious,” and by the twinkle in his eye you can tell he means in more ways than one — but during a visit at his office on Fowler Way in Placerville, it was clear he was talking about the often mysterious signs of heart attacks in women.
“Women are mysterious, particularly when it comes to heart disease,” said Dr. Yoder, 38. “That’s partly because they’re usually not 65-year-old veterans who smoked heavily,” he added, explaining that the early science of detecting heart disease and symptoms signaling an impending attack were comprised from data on men — often veterans of World War II.
Yoder, who has been with Marshall for two years and served an additional three-year fellowship, urges women to pay close attention to any unusual, uncomfortable feeling that may be precursor to an attack.
“When they experience chest pain, shortness of breath or just feeling a lot more tired than usual have it checked out,” Yoder said, adding that “anyone” could actually be having a heart attack and not know it.
Chest-related heart attack signs that often appear in men (and many women) include pressure, fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of the chest. The pain may spread to the neck, shoulder or jaw, accompanied by light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath.
But women who are having an attack often don’t have chest pain, according to published studies; the numbers indicate that nearly half of female heart attack victims did not experience significant chest pain.
Women often misdiagnose their more serious situation as being simply a stomach ailment or severe indigestion. Back pain also manifests in women’s heart attack symptoms, according to the studies.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women, and even if an episode is not fatal it can leave the patient incapacitated and lead to a declining quality of life.
Dr. Yoder has some simple advice for women who want to avoid such health problems.
“The absolute best medicine that you can get for heart health is diet and exercise,” he said. “Thirty minutes a day, five days a week, of aerobic exercise, along with a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and lean meats is an ideal minimum. Or 45 minutes a day, three days a week.”
Yoder said any aerobic workout is recommended, even if it’s simply a regular, brisk walk.
“It’s all about lifestyle choices,” Yoder said, adding that the medical field has noticed a “peak in smoking” among women.
“It’s bad for you,” said the straightforward doctor whose office is at 1004 Fowler Way, Suite 4. He can be reached at 530-626-9488.