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Dear Ladies! Now is the time to listen to Your Heart

Dear Ladies! Now is the time to listen to Your Heart

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. 


What are the symptoms of a heart attack in a woman?


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:

  • Fatigue
  • Pressure or tightness in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea


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. 


What can make a woman prone to heart disease?


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. 


What health mistakes can make a woman prone to heart disease?


Some of the health mistakes that can make a woman prone to heart disease are:

  • No proper focus on nutrition - A healthy diet is one of the most important ways to prevent many diseases, including heart conditions.  Overeating and an unhealthy diet can cause weight gain, a risk factor for various heart diseases. Our food should have different dietary items like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.  One should also avoid foods containing high quantities of added sugars, salts, and trans fats. 
  • Smoking - Smoking has become a vogue these days. No party or social gathering is without smoking. Even workplaces and public places have smoking zones these days. But this habit is one of the most dangerous habits that can cause severe health damage. Since this article is about heart health, we will focus on the cardiac risk factors of smoking. Tobacco smoking can accelerate the cholesterol buildup in the arterial walls. It can also lower the level of good cholesterol or HDL. So quit this habit to make your heart happy. 
  • Sedentary lifestyle - Most women feel that regular household errands done by them can replace actual exercises. But this is not true. It should be a workout like walking, running, jogging, swimming, or aerobics. You can join a gym if you find it impossible to maintain a workout regimen. 
  • Stress - Stress has become an inseparable entity from our lives. We can manage it mindfully. Women often live a life for others in the family. Now they need to prioritize their mental health. A "me time" and performing activities they like can help them in their stress management course.
  • Lack of regular health checkups - Women often ignore their health problems. They tend to avoid seeking consultations until they contract any emergency medical condition. Routine health checkups can help in the early diagnosis of the heart condition and thus result in the best prognosis. 


The Conclusion:


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:

  • Be physically active.
  • Have a healthy diet.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Quit smoke
  • Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep 

The last but most important step is going for an annual heart check. 

Your doctor may recommend tests such as: 

  • Blood pressure 
  • Lipids
  • Glucose
  • Bone mass index


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. 

Dr. Pooja Mittal
Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Meet The Doctor
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