Heart attacks and other cardiac ailments in women are on rise in India as well as worldwide. As per the latest date, diseases like heart attacks and cardiac arrests are killing 10 times more women compared to breast cancer. There are a number of factors that can deteriorate a woman’s heart health and make her more susceptible to heart disease. Undiagnosed blood pressure issues that end up damaging heart is one of the causes that’s silently raising risk of cardiac ailments in women.
Early menopause, PCOS, gestational diabetes, preterm delivery are among the reproductive factors that puts women at risk of heart attack, while lifestyle issues like high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyle, stress and mental health issues too can affect a woman’s heart. (Also read: Heart health: Tips to prevent heart attack during early morning walk in winters)
“Both globally and in India, women’s cardiac problems are on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), which account for 17.3 million deaths annually, are the leading cause of death among women globally. Unfortunately, CVDs are now one of the leading causes of death in women, with diseases like heart attacks and cardiac arrests killing 10 times more women than breast cancer. According to 2020 research analysing the National Family Health Survey, 18.69% of Indian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have untreated hypertension. It was 17.09% in rural areas against 21.73% in urban areas,” says Dr Rudradev Pandey, MD, DM (Cardiology), FACC, Additional Director, Intervention cardiology, CK Birla Hospital/RBH, Jaipur.
Risk factors for heart issues in women
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women worldwide, including in India. According to the Indian Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects approximately 50% of women in India and accounts for 25% of total female deaths in the country.
Dr Pandey talks about the major risk factors for CVDs in women.
Age: The risk of heart disease increases with age, and the risk increases significantly for women during and after menopause. As ovaries age, which is accompanied by multiple hormonal changes leading to menopause, the risk of CVDs increases. Less oestrogen and FSH: the follicle-stimulating hormone is produced at the time of menopause, and this increases the risks of sudden cardiac arrests (SCA).
High cholesterol: High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease.
Women may also be more vulnerable to CVDs due to hypertensive pregnancy disorders and persistence of weight gain post-pregnancy due to various physiological changes in the body during pregnancy as well as hormonal changes during menopause.
In addition to this, a family history of CVDs, high blood pressure, and diabetes; in addition to gestational diabetes, obesity, smoking, and sedentary lifestyles are also major risk factors to develop cardiac conditions in women.
Lifestyle changes for women to improve their heart health
“To address the rising prevalence of cardiac problems in women, there is a need for greater awareness and preventative interventions. Women should be encouraged to lead healthy lives that include regular exercise, a wholesome diet, and abstinence from cigarette use. Most women tend to self-medicate assuming it is probably a gastric symptom. For better prevention of CVDs in women, early screening, and control of risk factors like diabetes and hypertension are especially crucial,” says Dr Pandey.
He also mentions ways women can improve their heart health
Eat a nutritious diet
A diet high in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, low in saturated and trans fats, can greatly lower the risk of heart disease. A balanced diet was linked to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease among Indian women, according to current research estimates in the country.
Exercise can increase blood flow, lower the risk of heart disease, and help people stay at a healthy weight. At least 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise at a moderate level is advised by the American Heart Association.
Heart disease risk can rise with high amounts of stress. It’s critical to identify stress-reduction strategies, such as relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation.
Give up smoking
Smoking increases the risk of heart disease. The risk of heart disease can be decreased, and general health can be enhanced by quitting smoking.
Alcohol consumption can lead to a range of health problems, including liver disease, high blood pressure, and increased risk of some cancers. Limiting alcohol consumption is essential to maintain good health.
Take care of chronic conditions
Women who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol are more likely to develop heart disease. These disorders must be managed with medication, dietary adjustments, and routine check-ups.