MVD: The Heart Disease That Targets Younger Women

By Dr Arun Gopi

02 Apr, 2018


You may be acquainted with the classic form of heart disease, which begins when plaque builds up inside a large coronary artery, which eventually thickens and hardens, obstructing blood flow to the heart.


However, damage can occur to the tiny vessels that branch off from the larger coronary arteries. This can cause spasms and diminished blood flow to the heart—a condition known as Coronary microvascular disease (MVD). Though not always, plaque is often involved in coronary MVD as well.


Know your risks..

Coronary microvascular disease seems to affect women more than men—especially younger women.

Low estrogen levels before menopause and high blood pressure, especially high systolic blood pressure, increases the risk for coronary MVD in younger women.

A drop in estrogen levels in women during menopause combined with traditional risk factors for heart disease increase the risk for coronary MVD in older women.

Women who have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol; who are inactive, overweight or obese or who smoke are at higher risk for coronary MVD.


Understand your symptoms..

The most common symptom of coronary MVD is chest pain that lasts longer than 10 minutes. Women with microvascular disease may also have shortness of breath, lack of sleep, fatigue (tiredness) and lack of energy.  Symptoms of coronary MVD are often first noticed during routine daily activities, such as shopping, cooking and going to work and times of mental stress.


Diagnosis of coronary MVD remains the biggest challenge for doctors!

The standard tests for heart disease, such as stress tests and cardiac catheterizations, aren't designed to detect coronary MVD. These tests look for blockages in the large coronary arteries whereas, MVD affects the tiny coronary arteries. This goes to say that, you can have a test but find no blockages-- but still be at high risk for a heart attack.

However, if signs are present that not enough oxygen is reaching your heart's tiny arteries, there are ways that doctors can still diagnose the disease-- based on medical history, physical exam and other tests, such as blood and stress tests.


Strive for your heart health…

Left untreated, like other heart diseases, coronary MVD can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. If you notice any symptom, it is important to see a doctor.

In addition to this, making healthy lifestyle changes is key to helping reduce your heart disease in general. Limiting alcohol intake, reducing stress, not smoking, getting daily exercise and eating healthy foods are just some ways that can reduce the risk and keep heart disease out of your life—for good.

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