Heart disease is considered as the leading cause of death in women worldwide. Figures state that 8.6million women die of heart disease all over the world, which accounts for a third of all deaths in women. Over the years, heart disease was thought to be a problem related exclusively to men. However, studies have shown that women are equally at risk. For this reason, it’s important for all women to be aware of early symptoms and risk factors related to heart disease so as to prevent this life-threatening element from being a part of their lives.
Heart Disease and its Undeniable Risk
Heart disease is the term given to any type of disorder that affects the heart. The most common type of heart disease, affecting both men and women is coronary artery disease. This is the blockage or narrowing of the coronary arteries, which supply blood directly to the heart. This disease occurs over a period of time and is the most common cause related to heart attacks in most individuals. Other than this, heart diseases that are more dominant in women than men include,
1) Coronary microvascular disease, where the tiny arteries of heart get affected.
2) Broken heart syndrome, where extreme emotional stress can lead to severe heart muscle failure.
Common Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
In women, the most common type of symptom related to a heart attack is some form of pain, discomfort or pressure in the chest. However, this isn’t the only symptom and some women tend to have a heart attack without any chest pain. Women’s symptoms occur more often when they are resting or asleep. Other common symptoms may include:
- Unusual fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep Disturbance
- Cold Sweats
- Heart Racing
- Arms weak/heavy
Heart Disease Risk Factors in Women
Obesity, High cholesterol, and high blood pressure are traditional risk factors that play a significant role in coronary heart disease for both men and women. However, there are other factors that may impart a bigger role in heart disease for women. This may include;
- Diabetes– Women with diabetes are at a greater risk than men to develop heart disease.
- Smoking– Smoking in women will more likely lead to heart disease as compared to men who smoke
- Mental stress and depression– A women’s heart is more likely to be affected by depression than a man’s and this also makes treatment difficult
- Inactivity– Women are usually considered to be more inactive to men, hence making them more vulnerable to heart disease
- Menopause– High levels of estrogen help to prevent heart disease such as coronary microvascular disease. Hence women with menopause have low estrogen levels, making them more prone to heart disease.
- Broken Heart Syndrome– Women after menopause tend to develop this syndrome, usually brought about by increased emotional stress, leading to temporary heart muscle failure
- Pregnancy and its Complications– Complications during pregnancy such as diabetes or high blood pressure can make women more prone to heart disease in the long term as mothers.
- Inflammatory Conditions- Conditions such as Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis can put women at a higher risk of heart disease
How to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease in Women
Heart disease can be reduced by making several changes in a women’s lifestyle. This can include the following:
- Exercise of any form on a daily basis. This can include walking, swimming or playing any sport for at least 30mins every day.
- Quit smoking- Smoking leads to heart disease so avoid smoking in any circumstance
- Avoid foods rich in high sugars and fats, salt and cholesterol as these will only harm and clog your arteries. Opt for healthier options and learn to indulge in a balanced diet to get the desired nutrition your body needs.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid any form of stress
- Visit your physician for regular checkups to see how your body is doing
- Take prescribed medications such as blood thinners, aspirin or blood pressure meds appropriately to prevent any long-term complications leading to heart disease.
As the old saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure’ and this can’t be emphasized enough. All women face the threat of heart disease but being aware of risk factors and symptoms related to heart disease unique to women as well as by taking the necessary precautionary measures, all women can stay protected.