Period Control and Heart Disease
Good WaPo article, highlighting the differences in heart disease between women and men:
"The whole disease is poorly understood in women, from the expression of the symptoms all the way down to some of the basic mechanisms," said Carl J. Pepine, a cardiologist at University of Florida's College of Medicine in Gainesville. "The disease has a very broad spectrum, and more men are at one side and more women are at the other side."
Instead of one main blockage, arteries in many women go into spasm or have smaller, easily missed buildups along their entire lengths, which can be just as dangerous as one big one. And often the problems lie not in the major arteries that nourish the heart muscle but in the frequently overlooked smaller branches.
These differences, frequently found in younger women, could help explain why the symptoms are often so different than in men, why women are often misdiagnosed -- or never diagnosed -- why they commonly are not treated until much later, and why women are more likely to die from their heart disease even when they are treated. The standard tests, drugs and procedures simply may not work as well for many women.
For reproductive-age women, in addition to the well-known risk factors (high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, smoking), there's one additional, period-related risk factor:
Some researchers suspect that the crucial oxygen-carrying protein in blood, hemoglobin, may also be important. Women tend to have less hemoglobin than men because of their monthly menstrual cycles, and low hemoglobin may further starve the heart muscle. Hemoglobin deficits may also reduce nitric oxide levels.
"Hemoglobin turns out to be a major independent predictor of outcome," Pepine said.
One way for women to increase their hemoglobin is to limit unnecessary monthly blood loss (e.g., the fake period in women who use hormonal birth control, like the Pill). Bottom line: period control could prove to be an important preventive tool in the fight against heart disease.