‘Women should make heart health a priority’

Contrary to popular belief, women are just as vulnerable to heart disease as men. In India, cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of mortality among women, especially in urban areas and estimates show that 16.9. percent of all female deaths were due to cardiovascular disease.

Studies from Harvard Medical School have shown that “a woman’s symptoms are often different than a man’s. Before menopause, a woman’s own estrogen helps protect her from heart disease by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. After menopause, women have higher concentrations of total cholesterol than men. But this alone doesn’t explain the sudden increase in heart disease risk after menopause. Elevated triglycerides are a major contributor to cardiovascular risk in women. Low HDL and high triglycerides appear to be the only factors that increase the risk of death from heart disease in women older than 65 years.

“Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women more than in men, perhaps because women with diabetes have more additional risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Although women typically develop heart disease about 10 years later than men, diabetes erases that advantage. In women who have already had a heart attack, diabetes doubles the risk of a second heart attack and increases the risk of heart failure.”

Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that for women, metabolic syndrome, characterized by a large waist size, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides, is the most common risk factor. important for having heart attacks at an unusually young age. In a study of patients undergoing bypass surgery, metabolic syndrome produced a higher risk for women than for men.

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“Many women do not experience typical chest pain, which makes early diagnosis and treatment difficult. Often, due to responsibilities at home and at work, women tend to ignore their own well-being and dismiss mild symptoms as a routine nuisance. But women should be aware that they, too, are vulnerable to heart disease and should ensure they get regular check-ups, as well as pay attention to any worrying symptoms that require medical intervention. Perimenopausal women, especially, are at increased risk,” says Dr. Sanjeev Gera, Director and HOD, Cardiology, Fortis, Noida.

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Symptoms of a heart attack should not be ignored: chest pain, heaviness, or burning sensation, pain in one or both arms or in the left shoulder, throat, or jaw, shortness of breath or cold sweat, extreme fatigue, etc.

Women often don’t get regular preventive heart checkups to check for any signs of heart disease. Many times, patients arrive at hospitals with severely blocked arteries that increase their risks, such as blood clots, which can lead to 100 percent blockage of the coronary arteries and lead to a heart attack. Dr. Gera suggests the following preventative regimen:

1) The first step is awareness of the risk factors that cause blockages such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and stress that worsen the results.

2) Smoking or using tobacco in any form, including passive smoking, should be avoided.
Currently, most working women spend endless hours in the chair and do not spend time on physical activities.

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3) Practice any type of outdoor sport, jogging, walking, cycling, swimming or indoor activities such as gymnastics, dancing, yoga or any similar activity. It is imperative to be physically active for 30 to 45 minutes every day and increase the time if you are overweight.

4) Another key aspect is to take care of your diet. Excessive consumption of junk food, packaged food, carbonated drinks should be avoided. Control your caloric intake and look for heart-healthy diets that should include enough complex carbohydrates, legumes, fruits and vegetables with less sugar, salt and fat.

5) Obesity or weight gain should be controlled. Physical activity and a controlled diet would help maintain a healthy weight. In India, women have many responsibilities and often neglect their health problems. Many women experience a moderate to high level of stress and, due to many reasons, cannot sleep well. This is detrimental to good heart health and steps should be taken to reduce stress and anxiety and they should not be deprived of sleep.

6) All women should have regular health screenings, including home blood pressure and sugar monitoring and yearly heart monitoring that should include a lipid profile, HBA1C, and an exercise ECG test to uncover a silent heart disease In case symptoms or risks are identified, detailed investigations should be carried out on the advice of cardiologists.