Dear Dr. Roach: I’m a 68-year-old woman. In June 2012, I would be out of breath going up or down my stairs or down the street. I had to sit down and rest for at least 15 minutes, after which I felt better for a while. In June 2014, I called my doctor’s office, and they did a series of tests. This included a treadmill stress test. I went to a big hospital, and a cardiologist checked me out. My arteries were 99 per cent blocked. The doctor put in a stent and put me on a healthier diet, and now I feel much better.
The symptoms of artery blockage are not the same for everyone. Few people have chest pain (unless they are having a heart attack). Chest pressure or discomfort is common; however, you don’t have to have chest pressure, and women are more likely than men to have symptoms other than chest symptoms. Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of women.
Shortness of breath that comes with exercise is a well-known symptom, but some people also describe a sense of nausea, stomach ache or dizziness. These symptoms, especially when accompanying exercise, should be evaluated by your clinician. This applies most especially if they are new. In your case, you had had them for two years, so it’s possible you’ve had symptoms of heart disease for a long while without recognizing what they meant.
Stents for blockages in the arteries are useful in some people to relieve symptoms. Not everyone with a blockage needs to have the artery opened or stented; however, people with symptoms of blocked arteries that don’t improve with medication often benefit from stenting, even though stents have never been proven to increase length of life.
I’m glad your doctor talked to you about diet. Many times, we forget to give dietary advice to people with heart disease. There are a variety of options for healthy diets, but a more plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been proven to reduce heart-disease risk.
Dear Dr. Roach: I…