We are all aware of the fact that biologically, women are different from men. One can give a plethora of reasons to state the fact, right from the chromosomal differences to the gender roles assigned to us in the society. But one major fact people often seem to miss is that ‘Heart Attacks’ differ in men and women too. With over 85% of Cardiovascular deaths being caused by a heart attack, it becomes imperative to establish differentiating factors when we talk about the heart health of a man and a woman.
Let’s begin by understanding why heart diseases differ for females when compared to males. First and foremost are the anatomical differences. Women have smaller hearts with narrower blood vessels. Second, the cholesterol build-up occurs in different areas and the symptoms are different for different genders. Females suffer from chest pressure and are more likely to report about vomiting, sweating and nausea as compared to males. Third, women are also more likely to suffer from diseases that mimic a heart attack and the risk factors involved also vary to a certain degree. Talking about diagnostic care and treatment options, women may benefit from treatments that differ from that used in men. These changes range from calibrations in pacemakers to angioplasty. All of these factors account for the fact that we need to handle heart attacks in men and women differently.
So how do we make sure that heart attacks in men and women are treated differently? One way is to use Electrocardiogram(ECG) machines differently. But how?
When we talk about ECGs, a 10 Lead, 12 Channel machine is considered to be the gold standard. This is because it provides a complete picture of heart activity and is a very important tool in making clinical decisions related to heart disorders and it also gives a 3D imaging of the heart which helps immensely in diagnosis. Portable ecg machines are the solution to the problems faced with a conventional machine. Small and handy machines prove to be travel-friendly and can be used during rural campaigns or for a bed-side patient. To enhance the features, a bluetooth monitor can help the usability of the device, but, the lead placement is a major concern that doctors and technicians have to face. Misplacements can lead to incorrect readings of waveforms, potentially causing false-positive or false-negative diagnoses of conditions such as arrhythmias or myocardial infarction. The conventional hospital ecg machines also face this issue sonce physical lead placement becomes cumbersome. Anatomical differences between genders creates fears or embarrassment about exposing female patients' breast tissue, emphasizing the underlying dynamics of sex-based differences in cardiac care and their lasting impacts on women's health. In order to remedy this, cardiologists play an important role in improving diagnostic accuracy and deploying prompt interventions for all patients. Moreover, a patient ECG machine should be such that it is comfortable for all and that would ultimately lead to a better reading.
A few technical differences that have been noted while taking an ECG is that women have shorter PR intervals and QRS duration. Women also have a longer QT interval and more prominent ST segments. These points also reveal the intricate factors that highlight how ECGs differ with genders and how healthcare providers need to take care of this while dealing with heart conditions. ECG machines with AI interpretations aid doctors in preliminary diagnosis and identify conditions that throw light on the different waveforms obtained with different genders. Digital ECG machines are also a good option in cases like these.
All of this brings us to a conclusion that demands the need for different diagnosis and treatment pathways for cardiac conditions, pertaining to different genders. A deeper dive into the persisting issue can lead to fruitful consequences that can revolutionize cardiac care for women. This Women's Equality day, let’s strive to achieve better and safer diagnostic ECG practices for women all around the world and make way for superior healthcare practices for females.