There is widespread misconception about heart disease in women. Many think it is primarily a disease of male. Many do not consider heart disease a serious threat for women. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer in women. Heart disease affects as many women as men. However, their risk is seriously underestimated.
Studies show that there are several discrepancies in recognising and treating heart disease in women. Often women receive less medical attention than their male counterpart. Moreover, certain illnesses and conditions are more likely to cause heart disease in women than in men. For example, metabolic syndrome is more likely to trigger heart disease in women. This condition is marked by obesity around the abdomen, high blood pressure, and high levels of blood glucose and cholesterol.
The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. As a woman’s level of estrogen drops before and during menopause, her risk of damage to smaller blood vessels in the heart increases. But women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease. All women can take steps to prevent it by practicing healthy lifestyle habits.
Men and women alike can experience the classical symptom of heart attack — severe chest pain — but women, more often than men, may have subtler, less recognisable symptoms. For example, women are more likely to feel unusual fatigue, abdominal, neck, shoulder or upper back pain, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath than men during a heart attack.
In some cases, women initially ignore these symptoms, especially if they are not accompanied by severe chest pain. By the time they finally realise something is seriously wrong, significant heart damage may have occurred.
Preventive measures can have a positive impact on up to 90% of a woman’s risk of developing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps for healthy heart:
• Get active: At least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity.
• Control cholesterol: Aim for under 200 mg/dl.
• Eat better: More fruits, vegetables, less salt.
• Control blood pressure: Normal is below 120/80 mg/Hg.
• Lose weight
• Reduce blood sugar: Diabetes more than doubles the risk for heart disease and stroke.
• Stop smoking: Smoking raises the risk of heart disease and many chronic disorders.
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