Heart for Women strives to conduct more in-depth research into the causes of cardiovascular disease in women. Because if this disease is the number one cause of death, it’s time for a change. It is essential that we can make more causal connections to stop the disease. That is why we have identified a number of research trajectories as areas of interest.
Treating breast cancer is not without its dangers. After all, radiation or chemotherapy is in the area of the heart, which can lead to subsequent damage. By detecting these defects at an early stage, heart failure can ultimately be prevented.
We know two hereditary factors which play a role in breast cancer, namely the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. The moment a woman has an abnormality in one of these genes, the woman has an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Research should establish the link between the gene mutation and heart failure. We would also like to know the consequences for the heart of women who have had their ovary (s) removed preventively and who have entered an artificial transition.
The story of a patient suffering from breast cancer with heart damage (Dutch)
Look here for more information about the research into heart damage in women following breast cancer treatment.
Pregnancy hypertension is an increase in blood pressure at the end of pregnancy or shortly after delivery. Since elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, we would like these patients to be monitored. We see a role for eHealth programs in this: using IT to improve health. This includes the transmission of blood pressure via the internet or an app used by the patient.
Menopausal women who have diabetes are a risk group for cardiovascular disease. But is there also a relationship between diabetes and ovarian aging? The presumption is yes, which is why more research is vital.
There is considerable difference between men and women when it comes to causes and symptoms of cardiovascular disease. That is why it is good to also clarify the difference between men and women when it comes to damage in the blood vessels due to diabetes.
We also want to know more about diastolic heart failure. With this deviation, the heart is stiff, making it difficult to relax. The heart cannot fill properly with blood, which means that less blood can leave the heart. Research should show whether women with diabetes are more at risk for this specific type of heart failure.
Heart problems in menopause
In menopause, a woman’s body changes because estrogen production stops. This gives women a chance that their blood pressure and cholesterol levels will rise. They can also suffer from obesity and diabetes. These aspects are all risks for heart complaints.
Heart failure often stems from micro vascular angina pectoris (MCD). The heart does not get enough blood and oxygen. Research should demonstrate what knowledge and tools are needed to discover the diagnosis of MCD at an early stage. Naturally, we also need to find out whether and which women are more genetically predisposed to this. In addition, we want to know if there is a relationship with the transition and what shortness of breath causes damage to the blood vessels.
Heart attacks in women
Heart problems regularly occur in women due to acute tears in the coronary artery. To what extent do heredity issues influence this? What is the effect of stress on the heart? Strong emotions such as the death of someone play a role in heart problems, but also stress due to anger, fear, tension or pain. Placing a stent, a metal or plastic tube in a blood vessel or a canal, at an early age is not without consequences for the patient. We want to expose these risks to prevent death.
Watch the story of a patient who has happened to this below (Dutch).
Medication side effects
Statine is a drug that lowers cholesterol. What are the side effects on the heart of this medication? And what are the consequences of anticoagulant medication in women who experience abnormal blood loss during their menstrual period?
It is essential to properly inform during primary care about complaints which may indicate cardiovascular disease. Primary care givers such as general practitioners do not look for cardiovascular disease in many complaints of women, because they are of a completely different nature than in men.
What is the relationship between heart complaints and stress or depression? What role can mindfulness play in preventing heart failure?
A SCAD (sudden coronary artery dissection) is one sudden tear in one of the coronary vessels, resulting in a heart attack. This type of heart attack is more common in women than in men, especially in the 45-60 age range. Rarely, it can occur at the end of pregnancy or in childbirth. It is striking that in these patients there is usually little or no arteriosclerosis visible in the coronary vessels. There are also often no risk factors present, although smoking and high blood pressure occur regularly. Some patients have fibro muscular dysplasia (FMD), a connective tissue thickening in a coronary vessel, which can also occur in the blood vessels elsewhere in the body. The relationship with other connective tissue disorders is much less clear.
It is still unknown how a SCAD occurs, how we can best treat it and what the chances are that it will happen again. We also do not know why it more often affects (young) women.
Questions which also cause a great deal of uncertainty for the patients themselves, especially because these are young people who are still in the prime of their lives.
During 2015 contact was made with fellow cardiologists at Harvard University (Mayo Clinic-USA) who founded the American SCAD Alliance. We have agreed to collaborate in research into this field where possible.