Ischemic Heart Disease in Older Women: An Overview

Wilbert S. Aronow, MD, Department of Medicine, Divisions of Cardiology and Geriatrics, Westchester Medical Center/New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY; Clinical Professor of Medicine and Chief, Cardiology Clinic, Westchester Medical Center/New York Medical College, and Adjunct Professor of Geriatrics and Adult Development, Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

In older women, ischemic heart disease (IHD) is diagnosed if there is coronary angiographic evidence of significant IHD, a documented myocardial infarction, a typical history of angina with myocardial ischemia diagnosed by stress testing, or sudden cardiac death. Clinical manifestations of acute myocardial infarction in older women include dyspnea (the most common presenting symptom), chest pain, neurological symptoms and gastrointestinal symptoms. The prognosis of Q-wave myocardial infarction is not significantly different if the myocardial infarction is clinically recognized or unrecognized. IHD should be treated with intensive risk factor modification, antiplatelet therapy, beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.

Key words: ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, antiplatelet drugs, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.

The most common cause of death in older women is ischemic heart disease (IHD). The prevalence of IHD is similar in older women compared to older men.1 In one study of 2,464 women with an average age of 81 years, the prevalence of IHD was 41%.