The facts are indisputable: African Americans and Latino Americans who are at high risk for heart disease are less likely to receive life-saving treatments. Age and gender are also significant risk factors. More women than men die of heart disease, although more men have heart attacks; and as people age, the risk of heart disease increases.
The Center for Disease Control reports that despite prevalence of heart disease across all racial and ethnic groups, women and people of color are treated at a lesser rate for cardiovascular disease than Caucasian men. The good news, however, is that recent research, plus widespread educational initiatives, are starting conversations about these disparities.
Dr. Sandeep Khosla, chief of cardiology and director of cardiac catheterization laboratories and endovascular therapeutics at Sinai Health System in Chicago, treats a diverse group of patients with heart problems. He recently spoke with us about the advances in cardiovascular treatment, the implications of heredity, preventive measures and warning signs as they relate to heart disease among people of color and women.
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Q. What is cardiovascular disease? How is it different from heart disease?
The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and connecting blood vessels. This is the entire plumbing system, if you will, and it is susceptible to the same disease factors that can cause heart disease and heart attacks, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. So whatever affects the heart is likely to affect the rest of the vascular system, to some degree. This includes brain function, kidney and leg circulation.
Q. What are some symptoms of cardiovascular disease?
SK: Symptoms include, but are not limited to: shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, being fatigued or just not feeling well. All of these symptoms indicate problems with the cardiovascular system. Symptoms of heart disease and heart attack can vary in men and women. The most important thing to remember is to take all symptoms seriously, even if they seem insignificant at the time.