Most of us believe that heart disease is less prevalent in females when compared to men. We often mistook this fact as women are free from heart disease. According to the National Family Health Survey report published in 2020, 18.69% of women between 15-49 years have undiagnosed hypertension. The percentage was 21.69% in urban areas and 17.09% in rural areas.
Women themselves play a significant role in downplaying their risk of cardiac diseases. Even women with multiple heart disease-related risk factors often ignore their symptoms and seek consultation in the later stages. Many women consider their cardiac symptoms as gastric issues and rely on self-medication.
Social norms in India are also responsible to an extent. We are a bit dismissive about symptoms of cardiac disease in women and often taken to the hospitals at the very last moment. This situation is common in large families where the decision-maker is the male head of the family.
Another reason is the difference in cardiac symptoms in men and women. Often women do not manifest the classic symptoms of heart disease like chest pain and breathlessness. They have generalized non-specific symptoms making the diagnosis difficult.
The symptoms of a heart attack in a woman are different from man. They are less likely to have chest pain compared to a man. Instead, they are more likely to have:
On the other hand, women are more likely to have asymptomatic coronary heart disease. Sometimes inexperienced healthcare professionals also fail to diagnose these symptoms at the initial stages, making it difficult to contract the condition in the initial stages.
Astonishingly, many women die of heart conditions every year still awareness among women is low. Though factors like mental stress, reduced physical activity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and obesity can contribute to heart conditions in both men and women, low estrogen levels post-menopause can also make a woman prone to heart disease.
The sad part is that women tend to ignore these factors as they are busy managing and helping the health of the rest of the family. Women may also develop these symptoms in older ages as high estrogen levels protect them till menopause.
According to various research, women with conditions like high blood sugar or high blood pressure during pregnancy have higher chances of developing hypertension and diabetes later in life compared to women without these conditions during pregnancy. Therefore these women are at greater risk of developing heart diseases. Post delivery, the blood pressure, and blood sugar come at normal levels. As a result, these women never go for a regular health checkups. Women with a history of gestational diabetes and hypertension should go for a health check at least once a year.
Some of the health mistakes that can make a woman prone to heart disease are:
Cardiovascular diseases are among the most common causes of death in women. But the surprising fact is people and physicians are unaware of the extent of the risks for females. The unfortunate misconception of a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among women worsens the condition. The conditions like gestational diabetes and hypertension during pregnancy can cause cardiac diseases in the later stages. They also become prone to heart disease after menopause due to a drop in estrogen synthesis.
It is the time when a woman should become their healthcare advocate. Some lifestyle changes that you can do:
The last but most important step is going for an annual heart check.
Your doctor may recommend tests such as:
You can discuss the reports with your doctor and what changes you need to adopt to have a healthier heart.
Remember, a woman is the backbone of the family. To improve the family's health, we must ensure the health of all the women in our family.